Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2023-04-26/Obituary

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Remembering David "DGG" Goodman

David Goodman at the first-ever Wiki-Picnic or "Wiknic" at Central Park in 2007. His cap represents the Professional Staff Congress, the trade union of the City University of New York.

David Goodman, user:DGG, passed away peacefully in his sleep on the night of Thursday April 6, 2023. His wife Esther and daughter Eve report that he was in good health and spirit hours before his passing of sudden heart failure. His friends at Wikimedia New York City knew David as an event host, Wikipedia trainer, and ideological advocate for universal access to knowledge and library resources. Online, many Wikimedia editors knew David as a member of the Arbitration Committee, for development of the Articles for deletion review process, and for his position statements on social and ethical issues in the Wikimedia Movement.

Having just retired as an academic librarian and looking for something new, David registered his Wikipedia account on September 4, 2006, making 320,869 edits to the wikis, with his last edit days before his passing. The first record of his joining an in-person wiki event is August 2007 at the inaugural Wiknic in Manhattan's Central Park, and he was part of the subsequent November 2007 meeting in his Brooklyn neighborhood when local planning began. In January 2009 David co-founded Wikimedia New York City (Wiki NYC) and until only recently, David's home address was the headquarters for the organization, even hosting some key meetings refreshed by a tradition of siphon seltzer bottles. In July 2009 he coordinated Wikipedia at the Library as the first formal Wiki NYC outreach and education campaign, and possibly the first edit-a-thon geared toward the general public anywhere. Following that precedent, the Wiki NYC strategic direction has been to seek and sustain library partnerships. This soon developed into university partnerships in the Wikipedia Education Program and to comparable educational events at community centers and nonprofit organizations. David himself served as a trainer for hundreds of in-person Wiki NYC events and he encouraged others in the chapter to hold about 1,000 in-person events to date. In all planning, David advocated matching New York City's cultural and language diversity to Wikimedia Movement goals for outreach.

From 2015 to 2018, and again in 2020, David was thrice elected to serve on the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee. In his campaign statements in 2018 and 2019, David described his own interests and accomplishments during his term as being stricter in expecting that all Wikipedia editors uphold standards of civility; redesigning Wikipedia's arbitration process to be simpler and more accessible to editors rather than administrators; and issuing rulings that Wikipedia editors could reasonably apply to resolve conflict and advance Wikipedia's editorial process.

He encouraged more direct Wikimedia community enforcement of the Wikimedia Terms of Use to counter conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia. Outside of ArbCom but complementary to his activities there, David was a prolific evaluator in the AfD process. Records show that he took positions on keeping or deleting Wikipedia articles through over 27,000 edits, and socially he was known for evaluating companies, products, brands, CEOs, and self-named philanthropists. As article evaluation is always a community process in Wikipedia, everyone who regularly participated in these discussions encountered David in the slate of reviews. Additionally, every public relations or communications company who sent paid editors to post promotional content on Wikipedia faced David's judgment, where he practiced endless patience for those who could submit content in compliance with Wikipedia's notability guidelines, and fair dismissal for everyone else. Whenever more community comment was needed, David was a regular poster to Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents.

In addition to routine in-person training around New York City, David was a co-founder of WikiConference North America, first held in New York City in 2014. That annual event series continues to present, as documented on Meta-Wiki. Beyond the ongoing impact of hosting networks of Wikipedia volunteers annually, the conference also established the Wikimedia New York City Friendly space policies which David co-initiated, and which he taught many times to Wikipedia editors online and offline. David's talks at Wikimedia conferences included "New Editors", "Paid Editing Moderated Discussion" (covered in media), "Reimagining the article submission process", "Promotionalism vs. Notability" and "Why Consensus Fails".

On the English Wikipedia itself, David's most edited articles were open access, ebook, printing press, Johannes Gutenberg, and phage therapy. These editorial contributions reflect a professional life close to his own personal interests. David was born May 23, 1943 in Philadelphia. After David moved to New York City in his youth, he met Esther, and both attended the local Midwood High School and Brooklyn College. They were together at Berkeley in the 1960s, and involved in opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War. David was influenced by the anti-war Free Speech Movement while at Berkeley, as part of the emerging New Left, distinguished from his father's "Old Left" experience associated with The Militant. The couple married when they returned to New York in 1971. He received a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College, a master of library science degree from Rutgers University, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. In his early career, he practiced information science with various universities, while from mid-career he was at Princeton University as Chemistry Librarian, then Biology Librarian, and finally as Research Librarian and Biological Sciences Bibliographer. From 2002 until his retirement in 2006, he taught as a professor in the Master's program at the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Long Island University, then immediately launched his wiki-career. Esther and David shared a lifelong passion for literature, intellectual debate, and Jewish secularism. Although he was a great lover of public libraries, his own home had at least as much space for books as anything else. Somehow, though he continuously gave them away and passed them around, visitors to his home noted that the total number of books never diminished.

Editors are leaving their condolences and memories on his talk page. Additionally, some of his friends and colleagues remember him below:

David believed in and worked to foster a people-centered Wikipedia, profoundly humanist and inclusionist in the broadest sense. Ardently fair-minded and dedicated to hearing everyone out and bringing everyone in, his mentorship was a gift passed down and, in the best wiki-fashion, imitated among "Wikibrarians" in our city and far beyond.

David and Esther's Brooklyn Brownstone residence, as well as being Wikimedia New York City's legal address for most of its history, was also our spiritual home. From the overflowing shelves of books to the fresh seltzer to the enduring conversations to the abundant nosh, their place was a locus of sustenance and nourishment for our community.

— Wikimedia New York City
No one was more knowledgeable about Wikipedia’s notability policy and more fair in its implementation than David Goodman.

With a PhD (and post-doctoral work) in molecular biology he pursued a career as a librarian of one of the largest university libraries in the world. His unusual archiving and sorting of his talk page is a testament to his vast knowledge of the minutiae of the excruciatingly and unnecessarily complex meta pages of Wikipedia. As neither an inclusionist nor a deletionist, he strove towards order in the chaos of conflicting criteria for notability and deletion, and was a beacon for improvement of the NPP and AfD processes. His user page should be compulsory reading for anyone aspiring to adminship or NPP.

I am proud and privileged to have worked closely with David. As his guest for a stay in the US, we worked hard, often until late at night, to achieve some sense in the new page processing systems Wikipedia now has, and discussing at length what’s right and wrong about Wikipedia and its owners. I am extremely saddened at his sudden passing and my condolences go to his family who gave me such a warm séjour in their home.
— Chris, Kudpung
When I was new to Wikimedia New York City, User:DGG was so welcoming and helpful as a Wikipedian, librarian, and educator. David so clearly had a passion for maintaining the encyclopedia and the policies necessary to keep it going. He helped dozens if not hundreds or thousands of Wikipedians on-Wiki to navigate the system, with kindness, and I'll never forget his guidance and perspective.
— Dorothy, Hexatekin
I first met David years ago at WikiConNA, where we chatted for hours about the finer points of AfC, in the way that only us nerdy Wikipedians can. David was a very caring and dedicated individual, who put great effort into Wikipedia. He was nigh a saint for his willingness to help COI editors, and for his incredible patience. We have truly lost one of our best.
— CaptainEek
The first time I encountered DGG, I was apologizing and embarrassed. It was more than 10 years ago, and I was teaching a class about Wikipedia. I had groups of students create and improve articles and made the rookie mistake of having them take their article up to Good Article level. I didn't yet understand that the Good Article nomination process was famously backlogged, often taking months for a review, and utterly incompatible with a class schedule. Everything was going well, with some quick, constructive reviews for most of the groups, but in the final days of the semester one group still did not have a review. Just when it looked like someone was going to review it, David noticed some close paraphrasing and tagged the article accordingly. The students were understandably stressed and, to my utter horror, one of them lost their temper and directed a colorful outburst his way (and towards Wikipedia in general). I hurried to address the situation, talked to the student and their group, and then reached out to David to apologize profusely, prepared to try to do damage control. Not only was he not upset; he was downright friendly and encouraging. He typed out some advice about close paraphrasing, said if any of the students have questions they can contact him, and suggested we chat sometime about some Wikipedia-related interests I had put on my user page. A year later, we met in person at Wikiconference USA (my first time meeting any Wikimedians). I reminded him of our interaction and apologized again. He just smirked, and we had the first of what would be many conversations about students, deletion, notability, and paid editing. I moved to New York shortly thereafter, where David was a mainstay at local Wikimedia events.
In 2023, it's easy to get the impression that the internet is a terrible place filled with harassment, hate speech, censorship, manipulation, and exploitation. Once in a while, it's important to remember someone who worked tirelessly, in relative obscurity, for a common good -- someone who dedicated a huge amount of time toiling behind the scenes of Wikipedia to improve a resource millions of people use every day. David approached Wikipedia in a way that few do these days. For anyone here, it's easy to get lost in the pedantry and procedural minutiae of policies, guidelines, and other formal rules. David had limited use for all that, instead approaching Wikipedia through a set of evolving philosophical principles and best practices based on years of experience, wisdom, collaboration, and compromise. If you found yourself in a disagreement with him, you could count on a patient conversation explaining why he thought what he thought and why it was in the best interest of Wikipedia. You might not be persuaded every time, but it was impossible to form the impression that he was anything but reasonable or well-intentioned. We argued a few times over the years, including in areas known for wikidrama, and I was always impressed by his restraint. He was reliable for patient communication and never inflaming conflict. This is some of the highest praise I can give.
I'll mention one other conversation that sticks in my memory. At one of the Wiknics we had a few years ago (a wiki-themed picnic), David was telling me and someone else about his early involvement with Wikipedia. He said that in his professional career, he developed a reputation among some colleagues for being "difficult" and didn't like it. He tried to learn why that was, and when he found himself involved with Wikipedia he saw it as an opportunity to start over in a way. He went on to talk about his approach to the interpersonal dimension of Wikipedia. It was one of those moments where someone you regard as having a specific superpower reveals it as a hard-earned skill that had to be developed. In that conversation he passed on a pearl of wisdom that I've since tried to relay to a number of people: For any discussion where there was some disagreement, he said he would try hard to limit himself to just two comments. That way he put a lot of thought into those two comments, and didn't get sucked into an extended back-and-forth, which doesn't really help anyone. I would add that his strategy also lent gravity to his opinions, and was a small part of what made him such an influential personality in our project.
To his family, I'm so sorry for your loss. David was one of my favorite Wikipedians. This is a massive loss for Wikipedia, for its readers, and for its editing community, but I'm grateful for the time you shared him with us.
— Rhododendrites talk
David. One of the most respected people who accepted me as a 16 year old for my adminship and as a member of Wikimedia New York City for so many years. A lot of what I learned in outreach and Wikipedia editing, I learned from David in the mid-2000s. He could and would chat with anyone who reached out to him. He was incredibly intelligent, but he took no fools. To quote Roger Grimsby, he could spot a phony from 3 paces and identify him in 3 seconds. He had that kind of intelligence. I don't know if there's a bigger loss for the Wikimedia community in a whole in 9 years. Once you had his respect, he'd defend you fiercely, something we do not always have in this community. For lack of a better term, he was the patriarch of Wikimedia New York City and almost everyone who knew him valued his opinion on anything, from basic edit disputes to the Wikimedia Foundation drama of the week. While his passing was too soon, we know for real that his legacy will live on forever in the Wikimedia Foundation and the causes he cherished outside of us. We're gonna miss you man.
— Mitch32(won't you be my neighbor?)
David, to me, *was* Wikipedia. For most of Wikipedia's existence, David was there, working on its construction, operations, resolving conflicts, and guiding its future. His work was not limited to its inner workings. Together with other early community builders, David created an in-person Wikipedia community that works together to educate and build something important and useful for the world. I remember him telling me fondly how glad he was to have so successfully guided and supported newer generations of Wikipedia leaders and organizers. He saw a brighter future for the open access/commons movement.
— Mozucat (talk)
What Mitchazenia said. In addition to incorporating by reference my comments on his talk page, I cannot not hear his careful voice in the things written by him on his userpage. I hope we have a recording of it somewhere—it was a voice that could not only make you listen but make you feel you should have.

I remember the last time we actually talked ... right around the beginning of the pandemic three years and change ago. Due to cell problems in my area, I was outside the house and had to go to a church parking lot on high ground to call. The reason for our conversation was the oversight flag, which I still had at that time despite minimal use of it over the last years before it. David explained why it was time — we really hadn't needed it so much anymore with RevDel now available to every admin — and within an hour I returned home and informed ArbCom of our conversation, and that I was surrendering it. Thanks to David, that decision (completely necessary in any event) was utterly painless.

— Daniel Case (talk)
DGG's passing is a great loss to the Wikipedia community and all those who knew him. My deepest condolences to the family. DGG's legacy will live on through the countless contributions he made to Wikipedia and the impact he had on those he touched. His great work and helpful nature impacted many, many people. He was a mentor and a source of inspiration for me. DGG had a profound impact on me, as he instilled in me a belief in the value of the Wikipedia community. His wise counsel and guidance, which he provided on numerous occasions, taught me the importance of remaining focused and composed in difficult situations. I will always be grateful for his kind advice and support, and will never forget the lessons he taught me. Truly, David Goodman was a kind and compassionate person, and his loss is deeply felt. He touched the lives of many and made a lasting impact through his work and his character. He will be missed greatly by all who knew him, and his memory will continue to inspire and uplift those who were fortunate enough to have crossed paths with him.
— RV (talk)
This is very sad news indeed. Before joining the Wikimedia Foundation staff, he and his wonderful wife warmly welcomed me into their home to stay while attending the Wikipedia Day celebrations in New York in 2018. We had many wonderful philosophical conversations about education, free knowledge, and family. He changed my mind a bit, and I changed his a bit too. I'm saddened not only for the loss for our community, but for the loss of a uniquely dynamic person on this planet.
— JKoerner (WMF) aka Jackie Koerner(talk)