Thursday, February 10, 2011

LDS Church Wikipedia page

I'm currently in a class called "Sharing the Gospel on the Internet", which is a complete blast, but I have a lot of catch up to do :)

This week (well, not this week. But it is for me, since I'm behind) our assignment was to check out the LDS Church Wikipedia page, and read the discussions of the people who edited it. Hoo-boy. I was not expecting what I found.

Wikipedia is a great resource. Anything and everything you are interested in learning about, you can get your start on Wikipedia. However, beneath its benevolent exterior crust lies a mantle of debate, nitpicking, clashing agendas, cloaks, daggers, and plastic smiles that conceal editors that hate each other's guts. Which is great, because that's how good, neutral, articles happen: argument/debate and compromise.

But as much as academia values neutrality, the truth is not always neutral. Honestly, it was tough to read some of the stuff in the discussion. The longest running thread was a debate about whether to classify Mormons as Christian. It was pretty hairy.

Wikipedia is definitely a unique format of expression. It is able to reach millions of people throughout the world, and influence their thoughts on thousands of subjects. The thing is, it's all run by volunteer users, who may or may not have any expertise on their subjects. Worse, they may have expertise and an agenda.

On our second day of class this semester, Dr. David Wiley (our teacher) gave us a challenge. He challenged us to try to find any way to connect with the Church from its Wiki page. The link was there, but it's more of a study resource than a way to connect. is where you want to go to connect with missionaries, but the link was no where to be found. We decided to try to add a link to the footnotes of the page. It seemed to work in the short run. The link showed up on the page, and everything was hunky-dory. . . but then it started.

Within a few minutes our link disappeared. We went to the discussions page to find some kind of an explanation. The removal edit was explained simply by (and I quote) "No, no, and no."

We double checked the rules of wikipedia, everything seemed kosher. So we posted it again. Same guy deleted it. Now curious, we clicked the link to his profile page. From the nature of the pictures, it became immediately obvious we were dealing with an "Anti-Mormon".

We read through the discussion history, and found that through its entire existence, the page has been a Mexican standoff between advocates and opponents of the Church. The proponents of the church would not allow slander to be posted, and the opposing side did their darndest to prevent anything useful from being posted. Case in point, the link to We read that at one point the link had been there, but one user had decided to remove it along with all the other Church links, and no one had been allowed to post it again since.

So, I lost a little faith in Wikipedia. Still, it's neat to know that sharing of the kind Wikipedia offers can exist in this world. When I want basic knowledge of a subject, I still punch it in to the wiki searchbar. However, I think I'm much more likely now to read a little deeper before taking anything at face value.

1 comment:

  1. Josh, I loved this quote from your blog post - "as much as academia values neutrality, the truth is not always neutral." By definition, the truth is not neutral. The truth definitely comes clearly down on a specific side of the argument - it's not the Swiss.

    I'm glad this experience with Wikipedia was so enlightening for you. While you may have lost a little faith, hopefully you're better armed to think about the interaction between technology and policy, community governance, etc.