My work to encourage more Pagans to edit Wikipedia has stalled, probably because I tried to organize it into a series of tedious tutorials. But when the Kenny Klein story broke, I added his Wikipedia entry to my watchlist, and realized that this one obscure article contains a wealth of lessons. Here are a few:
- Don’t write an article about yourself. This is really frowned upon in the Wikipedia community, although an outsider usually doesn’t know any better. Back in 2006, when the first draft was posted by user Kennyfiddler, it was actually pretty common, and no one even noticed he’d done it until 2013, at which point the article’s “talk page” was tagged with a note explaining the conflict of interest.
- Nothing is forgotten. As one might notice from some of the links I’ve provided already, a strength of Wikipedia is that every edit to every page ever is retained. There are some rare exceptions, but that’s the rule. It makes fighting vandalism easier because it’s possible to revert to an earlier version with a couple of clicks. It’s also an astounding audit trail for any article or editor.
- Don’t embellish the facts. Promotional language is a surefire way to annoy Wikipedians. We don’t need text list this (emphasis mine):
“Through his interest in British music, Klein discovered the Wiccan and Neopagan communities. He learned a great deal about traditional Scottish Witchcraft from New York merchant Eileen Campbell Gordon, and then joined the Blue Star coven and tradition of Wicca, becoming a High Priest within that tradition in 1983. He helped steer the Tradition towards a more traditional British form, discarding Alexandrian and ceremonial rituals and replacing them with British folkloric Craft practices, including the 8 Paths of Power, the 7 Tenets of Faith, and the Drawing Down of the Moon and Sun. Between 1983 and 1992 he and his wife, High Priestess Tzipora Klein (née Katz) were largely responsible for transforming Blue Star from a local coven to a Wiccan tradition of its own. Touring the country during that period performing music, Kenny and Tzipora continued to teach Blue Star Wicca, initiating many people and founding many covens, at the same time recording and distributing lessons on cassette tapes. Klein has continued to teach Traditional Wicca since then.”
The hard and fast rule for Wikipedia: if it’s not in the sources, it shouldn’t be in the article.
- Deletion can be a consequence. In 2012 the article was nominated for deletion, a complex process in which editors debate Wikipedia policy until they reach consensus. The nominator said, ” He wrote part of the article himself, describing himself twice in the third person as ‘a noted fiddler.'” Many of the article’s references are to primary sources (things Klein wrote himself, mostly), which do not establish the ever-important notability. Although it was ultimately kept, articles of lesser interest, such as many in the Pagan sphere, are vulnerable to deletion because the average editor won’t know where to find reliable sources.
- Innocent until proven guilty. Wikipedia has been burned more than once because articles about people weren’t entirely accurate. There’s a rather rigorous policy on biographies of living persons which demands rigorous checking of sources. In this case, it means that it is not appropriate to include details about Klein’s arrest until his case is decided in court, despite the fact that he apparently confessed.
- Wikipedia is an alphabet soup. The site has a vast array of policies, guidelines, and conventions, all of which are referred to (and, more helpfully, usually linked to) with some kind of alphabetic mishmash. The policy on living people is called BLP, for example. If an editor refers to something in all caps such as NOTNEWS or TOOSOON, e is not shouting; e is referring to an essay, guideline, or policy. If it’s not linked, you can find it quickly in the search bar. Type WP: before the term to ensure you get results from outside the article space; the various opinions and policies all live in a different place, and the WP: will get you there.
Wikipedia needs more Pagan editors to learn its policies and participate in editing articles. It’s not the most user-friendly site, but it’s possible to learn. Ask me any questions you like and I’ll do my best to answer them.