From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"But the biggest worry is that the great benefit of the open-source approach is also its great undoing. Its advantage is that anyone can contribute; the drawback is that sometimes just about anyone does. This leaves projects open to abuse, either by well-meaning dilettantes or intentional disrupters. Constant self-policing is required to ensure its quality."

-- The Economist, 3/18/2006

Hello! I'm a sixty-something paralegal living in western Massachusetts, once editing under my real name, which I eventually decided probably ought not be splashed all over the Web as much as it was. (Using 'Ravenswing' as a handle, something I've been doing for forty years now, likely isn't a whole lot more pseudonymous, but there we are.)

My Wikiactivity centers around hockey -- I'm a longtime statistician and sometime Society for International Hockey Research member, hockey journalist and sportscaster -- but I'm interested in everything from military history to politics to roleplaying games (and no, not in the console games that marketing departments insist on calling "RPGs").

And, to quote myself from a discussion here: "We're not out to write a mediocre encyclopedia here. This is a resource the whole world employs, and it is not merely our duty, but our privilege to get it right ... We should all be "elitists" on Wikipedia, and we should be proud to use the appellation."

Hockey is a marvellous game.

There's a great joy in playing it ...

An enormous thrill in watching it ...

May those of us who love it

Bear witness to fifty more years of it.

- the closing lines of Brian McFarlane's 50 Years Of Hockey, 1969

The usual cavalcade of userboxes[edit]

This user is a member of the Ice Hockey Mafia Gang.
This user has a Triple Crown.
This editor is a
Master Editor III
and is entitled to display this
Bufonite Editor Star.
This user is one of the 1500 most active English Wikipedians of all time.
This user has rollback rights on the English Wikipedia. (verify)
This user has pending changes reviewer rights on the English Wikipedia. (verify)
This user has autopatrolled rights on the English Wikipedia. (verify)
This user has created 119 articles on Wikipedia.

I value quality of articles over edit counts, merger of related content and deletion where articles fail notability standards.
This user thinks that registration should be required to edit articles.
This user has been editing Wikipedia for more than 15 years.
This user has new page reviewer rights on the English Wikipedia. (verify)
This user is a proud alumnus of the NU Choral Society!
This user has run for elective office.
This user drinks tea.
This user has loved camping all his life. Forests are the good and happy place.
This user is a GURPS GM, author and playtester.
This user enjoys Baroque music.
3.2This user has 3.2 centijimbos.
This user has published a book.
This user is a fan of Babylon 5.
This user is a proud native of the U.S. Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
This user knows the difference between a contract and a quasi-contract, and so should you!.

This user is Pro-Choice.
This user knows that
"RfA is a horrible and broken process"
This user believes that
alternative facts
are damnable lies
This user supports a free Tibet.
  NThis user attends or attended Northeastern University.
SPR This user will always hold the Springfield Falcons and Indians close to his memories.
This user is a fan of the
Boston Bruins
EThis user reads The Economist.

Trainssteam enginesteam engine
This user rode the MTA
and returned (unlike Charlie)
' This user patronizes the Franklin Regional Transit Authority, and has served on its advisory board!
This user rides the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, even if its senior van service often pisses him off.
Those calling Wikipedia "unreliable" are clueless moonbats who should join the 21st century.
WP:NThis user is sad that Josh Jacobson isn't quite notable enough to have a Wikipedia article.
This user is a Unitarian Universalist.
is a Grand Master of the Secret Cabal.

Yeah, I've a few.[edit]

The Running Man Barnstar
For your tireless contributions to the Hockey WikiProject, please accept this barnstar. BoojiBoy 20:49, 4 August 2006 (UTC)
The Defender of the Wiki Barnstar
For your commentary on the Barbara Schwarz AfD in first half of March 2007, explaining the concept of WP:OR and WP:RS Dennisthe2 21:57, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
The Random Acts of Kindness Barnstar
I am so sorry, and I want you to have this as an apologetic gift. JONJONBT talkhomemade userboxes 18:01, 26 July 2007 (UTC)
The Tireless Contributor Barnstar
I'm constantly stumbling across your edits, and they are, without fail, shrewd, constructive, and sorely needed. On behalf the internet users of the world, thanks for all your hard work! Fullobeans (talk) 18:56, 11 July 2008 (UTC)
The Special Barnstar
Thank you for everything you've done for me and for the WikiProject! Taste the rainbow! Vyrida 10:56, 15 February 2009 (UTC)
The Barnstar of Diligence
Re your efforts in resolving the issues relating to Vassallo5448's contributions. LessHeard vanU (talk) 13:40, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Your majesty, it gives me great pleasure to bestow these Imperial triple crown jewels upon you, Ravenswing, for your contributions in the areas of WP:DYK, WP:GA, and WP:FC.Cirt (talk) 05:15, 14 December 2008 (UTC).
The Civility Barnstar
For your rational demeanor during the ongoing diacritics struggle and at WP:HOCKEY in general.  Cjmclark (Contact) 14:03, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
The Hockey Barnstar
For all your fine hockey work over the years ... you’re part of the original Hockey Barnstar class! --Mo Rock...Monstrous (leech44) 22:14, 9 March 2012 (UTC)
The Frozen Trout of Seafood Justice
JUSTICE! Keep up the good sense of humour. - The Bushranger One ping only 21:49, 9 April 2012 (UTC)
The Barnstar of Good Humor
I award you this barnstar for making me laugh with your funny comment on WP:ANI here: ([1]) Soviet King In Soviet Russia, page edit you! 10:21, 11 April 2012 (UTC)
The Purple Heart Barnstar
Surprised to find out I'd been vandalized enough to merit one! Ravenswing 08:20, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
The Original Barnstar
For your consistent and excellent work at AfD with regards to NHOCKEY. ♠PMC(talk) 13:22, 11 October 2017 (UTC)
The Original Barnstar
This is for your valuable efforts on contributing to Wikipedia. Thank you. PATH SLOPU 09:29, 26 July 2020 (UTC)
The Winnowing Fan Barnstar
Gods, what an awful slog it's been, over the years, but it needs doing all the same.
The Socratic Barnstar
In appreciation, ~~ AirshipJ29 (talk) 00:49, 17 October 2022 (UTC)

The boundaries of my existence[edit]

north Venise-en-Québec, PQ 45°05′00″N 73°08′00″W / 45.083333°N 73.133333°W / 45.083333; -73.133333
south Houston Intercontinental Airport 29°59′04″N 95°20′29″W / 29.984444°N 95.341389°W / 29.984444; -95.341389
west 47°26′56″N 122°18′34″W / 47.448889°N 122.309444°W / 47.448889; -122.309444
east 45°57′49″N 66°38′35″W / 45.963611°N 66.643056°W / 45.963611; -66.643056

Ravenswing's Rant: The Boundaries of Notability (12/22)[edit]

An occasional column for rants of mine that I wanted to memorialize. For past rants, see my Rant Archive.

Whoa, three rants this year. But, in any event ...

One of my catchphrases in deletion discussions is "0+0+0+0+0=0." This is invariably preceded by a Keep proponent citing All The Things the article subject meets or has done. My answer, captured in 0+0 etc, is that notability criteria is set at exacting levels, and that we just don't total up near-misses and conclude that a heap of "almosts" is enough for notability.

For example: take me. I've done a lot of varied things in my life.

  • I've been the lead author on three tabletop RPG books, and a writer/contributor on a dozen more.
  • I've been an elected public official more than once, as well as an appointed public official.
  • I've been interviewed on television more than once.
  • I've been a broadcast sports color commentator.
  • I've performed in some of the great concert halls of the continent: Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall ... as well as appearing on stage with Ian McKellen in the American premiere of a Shakespearean play. My name's on several records as well.
  • I've been a reporter for both newspapers and websites, and have been interviewed for both daily and weekly newspapers.
  • I've been a concert promoter.
  • I've been a moderator and speaker at multiple science fiction conventions, including at the World Science Fiction Convention.

And all that runs well short. Nothing I wrote made any bestseller list. Doing color commentary on regional cable meets no criteria. Being an elected library trustee falls far far short of WP:POLITICIAN, and so does being an appointee to the regional transit authority's board of trustees. I've sung with ensembles, had a 30-second spot on the 6 o'clock news' sports segment for being the whacky guy who waved a referee-on-a-noose at minor league hockey games, had an interview in the local daily newspaper in the arts section for the weekly music series I ran as administrator of our local parish ... things like that. (The McKellen thing? It was the last night of a one-man show he was doing, and one of the last things he did was stage a scene from a play for which Shakespeare was only attributed as a co-author in the 20th century, McKellen had premiered the role with the Royal Shakespeare Company as an attributed play of Shakespeare's, it hadn't yet been done in America, and he invited anyone who felt like it to join him on stage and help out, which I did.)

See? 0+0+0+0+0=0. I don't meet WP notability standards. And neither do a lot of other people, including much of the traffic at AfD/PROD.

Pet Peeves[edit]

  • I am not particularly interested in "putting myself over" Who really gives a damn how many contributions I've made, what articles I've started, what credentials I have with which to beat you over the head that I am so much cooler than you, or anything other than whether I know about what I'm talking? I'm proud of my work here, and tickled by seeing it recognized, but I'll never post a puffed up list of the articles I've helped bring to FA/GA status (a small heap, so far) or listing my DYKs (eight, so far). I'm more into improving stubs than creating new articles. What Wikipedia needs more than sheer page count is improved quality of articles. Many editors seeking an easy slur (sound, reasoned arguments are, after all, much harder work than tossing out dog-whistles) call this "deletionist."
  • I am extremely particular about grammar, spelling and the non-use of diacriticals. I see no reason why time-honored grammar usages are invalidated just because today's typists are lazy sods, and if you have a burning desire to put umlauts and diacriticals over proper names, go over to the foreign language Wikipedias where such usages are proper -- this is the English Wikipedia, last I checked. (And don't bullshit us; they don't use diacriticals on non-North American en-language websites any more than in Canada and the US.)
  • I care strongly about documentation. If you assert it, you should be prepared to back it up, with a non-Wikipedia verifiable source. If you can't, you should retract it.
  • That being said, computer verification isn't the be-all and end-all of everything. An AfD was filed sometime ago against an author who had jack for sales ranking and not many Google hits. No kidding, folks, he wrote several popular books in the Seventies and early Eighties, pretty much nothing since, and his stuff's gone out of print. Any number of prominent Victorian authors have Amazon rankings which aren't anything about which to write their descendants.
  • ... and THAT being said, a single source shouldn't just be swallowed credulously. I'm minded of a line in Niven's/Pournelle's apoc story Lucifer's Hammer, where a local TV reporter asks an astronomer about blown cometary predictions the field had made. The astronomer's retort (to paraphrase) was that as far as the recently appearing Comet Kohoutek went, some astronomers said that it might or might not be visible in the night sky, and others burbled about how it'd be the Big Christmas Comet! -- tell me, ma'am, which astronomer did your station put on the six o'clock news?

    (By way of example, one dispute on WP was over an oldtimer that a Fox News affiliate reporter claimed was the last surviving WWI veteran, based apparently on his family's assertions and an old uniform hanging in his closet. My own initial retort was "So what? I have a Korean War paratroopers' uniform hanging in my closet. That doesn't mean I served in the Korean War ... which, come to that, took place a few years before I was born. The uniform, in fact, was my uncle's. Frankly, I think a lot more of verifiable government records than I do about surplus uniforms or the gullibility of local yokel reporters chasing interesting stories." It's astonishing how long it took this utterly unsubstantiated claim to die down on WP. Years.)

  • ... and THAT being said, a single source, however superficially "reliable," doesn't establish incontrovertible fact. Quite a few articles set forth "facts" buttressed by Some Book Somewhere, which really turn out to be just the opinion of the author. (Never mind, for example, the contentious article this week, where one somewhat dubious statement was supported by two cites from Canadian news outlets. The outlets might be considered reliable by many, but not only were the two articles identical down to the headline -- alright, not in of itself unusual -- they had different bylines. Who was plagiarizing whom?)
  • The nature of a consensus-based system is that sometimes you're on the losing side of it, and when you are, it's incumbent upon you to lose gracefully and move on. As Mr. McGreevy would say, "Nuf Ced."
  • Subjects that should be prima facie grounds for CSD: dorm buildings, bands or wannabe auteurs with Myspace ♮ pages for lead Google hits, game/fan/mediacruft that received less than ten minutes of screentime or ten pages of action, MMORPG gaming guilds, elementary schools, any portmanteau "X in popular culture" list ... gods, I could go on for a bit.
  • Articles that should be blocked from CSD: Articles within six hours of their creation, unless they're blatant vandalism, hoaxes or attack pages. It drives me nuts to see articles CSDed or AfDed four minutes after their creation, and from watching Special:Newpages, many articles are CSDed seconds after creation. Folks, Wikipedia doesn't give prizes for the first ones to file a CSD. What is your freaking hurry? (Alright, now I realize that this is a hallmark of people shilling for admin. You're getting a firm Oppose from me.) Can we give these people some chance to improve their articles?
  • People who pick over this user page for ammunition to use in AfDs and other discussions: If you think this means you, you're likely right. Searching for some dirt to fling because you can't win on the merits of the argument is a sure sign that a collaborative encyclopedia is not the environment for you. Maybe Fox News is hiring.
  • There should be a guideline with equal force to WP:BITE - that in their own turn, newcomers have a duty to act respectfully, courteously and with maturity, to make an effort to acquaint themselves with Wikipedia policies and guidelines, and to assume good faith on the part of existing editors who seek to apply them. The level of vehemence with which a newbie editor claims editors who oppose him can only have sinister motives for doing so, divided by the number of actual edits the newbie has made, is a strong indicator of someone the enclyopedia can safely do without.
  • "!vote" is politically correct weasel-wording - Yeah, yeah, I know we're not supposed to be "voting" on things, although no one's told the RfA process, and the screams of rage when admins or discussion closers make policy-over-consensus determinations are palpable. That being said, let's get a grip. The dreaded letters V-O-T-E don't vanish by virtue of putting extra punctuation in front of them, and doing so reminds me strongly of my wife's first bunny ducking her head underneath a towel and pretending no one could see her. Plainly we need a word that means "registering one's opinion in such a fashion that (usually) comes down on one side of an issue or another." "Vote" is a recognizable candidate for such a word. Chill, folks.
  • WP:AGF is not a suicide pact, and it does not require us to pull a Sgt. Schultz and bleat out "I know nuttink!" at every sign of bad faith behavior. If someone habitually resorts to blatant personal attacks, he is a troll. Calling him one is not a failure to AGF: it is pointing out the obvious fact of the perp's bad faith. It's maddening how often the aggressor gets off scot-free in the ensuing chaos, because blame-the-victim is SOP. Then again I'm not shilling for adminship, and I've no particular stake in sitting on my butt while trolls, sockpuppets, meatpuppets and crapmongers spill their spew all over the Web. "Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly ... they delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert." I have a feeling Sartre would rewrite that quote slightly, were he alive today.
  • "Sports bore me to death. I've only watched 2 sports contests in my entire 45 years although I've unwillingly attended dozens. I have no interest in any sport league, minor major junior senior whatever. Nonetheless, Wikipedia isn't written to please me. It's an encyclopedia that aims to have a great breadth and depth of knowledge from all over the world. If there's room for Ollie, Iowa, a town of 240 people, I think there's room for this article and also for the other teams in all the junior leagues in Canada. Interlingua" Written in an AfD from 2006, my response was that the aphorism I've bolded ought to be chiseled in granite. Indeed, it's not written to please me, nor to please you.
  • It's not that I don't understand what you're saying. It's that I disagree with what you're saying. This (or a variation thereof) has been a .sig of mine on any VBulletin-style forum for the better part of twenty thirty years. A few too many people think that if they just keep battering away, post after post, rebuttal after rebuttal, surely Everyone Will Understand.
  • Trolling at AfD and deletion: If you jeer at a nominator for not following WP:BEFORE, and you have not yourself provided reliable sources giving the subject significant coverage, you are a troll. If you deprod an article without providing a clean rationale for doing so, you are a troll. If you are in an alleged "rescue squadron" more focused on disrupting deletion discussions than in proving by way of sound sourcing that a subject is genuinely notable, you are a troll. If your response to a deletion discussion is throwing in alphabet salad in the line of DEMOLISH, IAR, ATD, NOTPAPER, PRESERVE, IMPERFECT and the like, you are a troll. If you're a self-proclaimed "inclusionist" with twice times as many WP: and talk page edits than mainspace edits, you are a troll. Either lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.
  • We are not a consecrated elite here. Notability standards are, and should be, broadly comprehensible to editors. In almost no case should technical expertise -- and I do not fall into the asinine rabbit hole of equating participation in a WikiProject or claims on a talk page with genuine technical accomplishments -- be required to apply them. We are not required to pay any group of editors deference, their self-proclaimed "expertise" notwithstanding.
  • WP:IAR/WP:COMMONSENSE is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Wikipedia has rules, and without them, this would be Urban Dictionary and a lightly regarded Internet joke, instead of the grandest and most useful encyclopedia in the history of the world. Those rules have been painfully hammered out through two decades of oft-contentious consensus. There will be tinkering as long as Wikipedia lasts. Defying those rules should only be done for the most important of reasons, and they sure as hell shouldn't be defied because (for example) an AfD about a local police official who otherwise fails to meet the GNG is the hill one has suddenly decided to die on. Those "rules" are only hauled out as trump cards in the hope of defying common sense, defying the rules, defying consensus. They're a declaration of "I'm right and everyone else is wrong." They're the last refuge of those who know in their guts that they don't have any other arguments to proffer -- else why not use stronger ones?
  • Finally, I care about research. This is an encyclopedia, and not only do we have an obligation to know about what we're talking, we have no right to vote or make edits in willful ignorance -- if you insist on being ignorant, go hang out in a blog instead. It drives me nuts to see AfDs filed on articles where the nom could -- and should -- have taken five minutes to follow up a few Google hits and realized the genuine notability of the subject. It drives me just as nuts to see "seems notable," "seems non-notable," "looks good" and their ilk as reasons to support or reject deletion. Translation = you don't really have a clue. You're really just guessing off of a five second glance at the article, swallowing any presumption whole and racking up a quick meaningless edit on AfD. News flash; no one will give a damn five years from now about your edit count. (Come to that, it's unlikely that anyone but you gives a damn about it now.) We are supposed to be building an encyclopedia here, not playing some geeky MMORPG and competing for Game High Score.

♮ - The earliest iteration of this Pet Peeves list was back in 2006. Does it show?

Ravenswing's Laws[edit]

  • Ravenswing's First Law: "The vehemence with which a group believes that their impact on the world is worthy of memorializing is in inverse proportion to the sum of its size and genuine notoriety."
  • Corollary: "The degree of vehemence with which an editor bellows about the notability of a subject is in inverse proportion to the degree for which significant coverage actually exists."
  • Ravenswing's Second Law: "Trotting out the "I'm being persecuted by those corrupt bastards for TELLING THE TRUTH!" card in any dispute is prima facie evidence that the editor who flashes it deserves what's coming."
  • Ravenswing's Third Law: "The vehemence (and repetitiveness) with which an editor states that those who oppose his actions/edits/POV can only have sinister motives for doing so is in inverse proportion to the editor's conformity to (a) relevant Wikipedia policies or guidelines; and/or (b) his articlespace edit count."
  • Ravenswing's Fourth Law: "The appearance in any argument on ANI, AN or other dispute boards of the phrase that someone did something for No! Good! Reason! is not only a sound predictor of a meritless charge, but of the likelihood that the speaker hasn't mentally advanced much beyond elementary school."