ISFDB talk:FAQ

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I guess that the page didn't really need to be locked, but anyway let me point out that now the ISFDB templates on Wikipedia don't even require the title parameter, taking it from the article's name as default, and the ISFDB Name (and Series) can even do without the id, if it can be derived from the article name by substituting underscores for spaces (i. e. as is the case of authors called like John Doe without any difficult initials etc.) --JVjr 09:21, 1 Nov 2006 (CST)

Regarding "5 The old ISFDB had a place for author biographies; where did they go?"

I propose taking that functionality back from Wikipedia. The Science fiction critical and fan culture are radically at odds with the Wikipedian's insane notion of what constitutes editing and who should be allowed to say what. I have publicly proposed that the ISFDB take back this public function from Wikipedia. My blog post is here: A Proposal: SF Author Bios Should Be Moved from Wikipedia to the ISFDB Wiki: http://www.kathryncramer.com/kathryn_cramer/2007/01/a_proposal_shou.html

I gather that the problem in the past was one of bandwidth, which is to say one of money. Perhaps some money could be found to do this.

But if I contribute any further to Wikipedia bios, I will simply not read the nut letters I've been getting from their so-called editors who seem to be a specialized speceies of troll.

Kathryn Cramer

A Proposal: SF Author Bios Should Be Moved from Wikipedia to the ISFDB Wiki

I propose that science fiction author bios be moved from Wikipedia to the ISFDB Wiki.

After a brief experience with Wikipdia, its editors strike me as a pack of officious trolls whose main concern is to make sure that you don't actually know the people you are writing about. The science fiction field doesn't work that way. I know hundreds (maybe over a thousand) science fiction writers, editors, and fans. Many, many of them could be described as my "associates." Am I connected to most members of the professional science fiction community in some way? You bet.

I've helped run a Hugo-nominated SF semiprozine for a couple of decades, I edit two year's best volumes, and am married to one of the most eminent editors in the field. But this connectedness holds true of really a lot of the people doing the actual biographies: Perhaps their connections are not so visible or so obvious, but the SF field is like one big extended family. We've all slept on each other's couches. We've bought each other drinks. We marry each other's daughters. . . . It's Clan Fandom.

And of those creating biographies that don't know their subjects, what they are mostly doing is lifting the ISFDB bibliographies wholesale and transplanting the content over to Wikipedia.

So lets have a revolution. Let's take the SF and fantasy bios over to the ISFDB Wiki and pull out of Wikipedia. Can we do this?

Or have I misjudged the Wikipedia sysops? Are they really reasonable people who will let people who actually know what they are talking about write there?

SEE ALSO: Jed Hartman's mediation on the state of affairs at Wikipedia: Wikipedia and sf. He provides an excellent example of exactly what I'm talking about:

Somewhat similarly, [Teresa Nielsen Hayden] wrote a great article at Wikipedia a while back, about Roger Elwood, that consisted mostly of personal anecdotes. It was well-written and full of personality (like some of the old Britannica articles by major authors once were), and I couldn’t bring myself to attach a note to it saying “This is, unfortunately, not the right style or approach for Wikipedia.” But, sadly, it wasn’t. And the article has subsequently been rewritten to fit Wikipedia better, though the current version (last I checked) contains a link to TNH’s version. The Talk page for that article is a perfect example of clash of Wikipedia culture with sf culture: TNH gave a long and impassioned and compelling argument in favor of her version, but unfortunately her approach was wrong according to established Wikipedia policy. According to the rules and standards explained to me last night, none of the great living critics (TNH being one) ought to be allowed to write about sf writers. Also, since ISFDB now has a Wiki, it makes sense to move the Wiki entries on its writers closer to the source from which many of the SF writer bios are lifted.

SEE ALSO, John McDaid:

Let's take a concrete example, an icon of the sf field, Damon Knight. A driving force in the Golden Age of science fiction, author, editor, founder of SFWA and Clarion, I mean, you just can't overestimate his impact on the field. Here's what he gets in Wikipedia. What's not there is precisely the kind of insight offered by people who knew Damon.

Posted by Kathryn on Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 10:03 PM in Books, Science Fiction, Wikipedia | Permalink

I can see where the frustration with Wikipedia's approach comes from; I think Jed's piece does a good job at identifying the root of the frustration, which is Wikipedia's policy that the standard for inclusion of material is verifiability, not truth. I don't think that's likely to change, so I agree that the kind of material Teresa Nielsen Hayden posted about Elwood won't fit Wikipedia, unless she also gets those anecdotes published in a source Wikipedia can cite. Like you, I would like to have a place to read that material; I knew Damon too, and would like to add my own anecdotes. It's clear that the place for those anecdotes is not Wikipedia.
I think it's also clear that there's no question of "taking over" anything from WP; there's no need to ask them to change anything. What I think you're asking for is just a change of ISFDB policy, which would create a place for the material Wikipedia's policy excludes.
If we were to change policy and maintain author bios here on the ISFDB, there are a couple of things I would be concerned about:
  • Is this going to be a distraction from the bibliographic work? We've got some fairly active bibliographic data entry going on right now, and it's a pretty exciting time for those of us participating. I personally would hate to see us diffuse the energy we've got by adding another goal to our mission statement.
  • Do we have the moderator bandwidth to manage it? With the kind of material you're talking about comes an obligation to review contributions to avoid libellous statements and so forth, and to block vandals, and protect pages as needed, and so on. Right now our Moderator Qualifications page talks about the need to understand bibliographic minutiae and the way the ISFDB's bibliographic structure works. These qualifications only partially overlap with those needed to moderate the kind of material you're discussing. A moderator on the ISFDB is simultaneously a moderator on the wiki and the database, so I do think this is an issue.
Al von Ruff will no doubt comment on whether he is willing to entertain this; it's his decision, as to whether this is in scope for the project. But I think a little planning would be necessary to make sure the issues I mention above don't make this a negative.
My own opinion is that if the questions can be answered satisfactorily, then this would be fine, but that we should wait until the current beta test of the ISFDB is completed, which may be months off. There is still a fair amount of work going on under the covers and I think in the near term this would be a bit of a distraction. Mike Christie (talk) 12:44, 26 Jan 2007 (CST)

Aside from the general issue of my nose being a bit out of joint, my general concern is that I have to use sources like this professionally for anthology story notes. And I find the Wikipedia editorial process and policies just appalling in that they are chasing off the kinds of people who ought to be lovingly maintaining these pages. The ISFDB is an important source for us. Yes, there are errors, but we live with that. But the wikipedia policies are not ones that, in the case of the science fiction field, are going to lead to good bios on average. The software is fine; it being a wiki is fine, but the collective offcious jerks (none of whom know anything about SF) found it absolutely scandalous that I was altering bios of people I knew, "my associates." This is unacceptable to me as a way of maintaining bios. This would rule out all the great critics of SF as contributors: Clute, Nicholls, Delany, Aldiss, etc.

Clearly Al von Ruff has plenty on his plate. But there has to be a better way to maintain the archival author bios than Wikipedia. (Perhaps I could make an arrangement to allow some of our story note author bios to be licensed via Creative Commons as seeds for some of this. I'm not sure if Harper would allow it, but we might be able to get away with it.)----Kathryn

While I can certainly understand the frustration with officious trolls driving steamrollers, and was personally confused by what look like internal conflicts in their policies when I first noticed the wikipedia, I really wish there was a way for author bios to stay on the wikipedia. My reasons are:
  • I don’t like duplicating effort and having some material on ISFDB and other stuff on wikipedia seems like duplication. ISFDB’s current strength is as a database that allows for cross referencing between authors, their works, and publications.
  • ISFDB is really struggling to stick to the speculative fiction genre, and more specifically, the printed on paper subset of that genre. Many authors are write in more than one genre and/or in electronic media meaning now we’d be dealing with both biographies and bibliographies where we’d be making the choice “does this belong in ISFDB?” Just yesterday I had someone complain to me about how tragic his ISFDB bibliography was because it did not include his non-genre works. I’d imagine he’d be in a real pickle if ISFDB also hosted his biography. --Marc Kupper 19:08, 26 Jan 2007 (CST)
Here's another thought: Kathryn, have you considered creating a new wiki for the kind of thing you're talking about? For example. PBwiki [1] appears to offer free wikis (though I know nothing about them other than that that's where the SF Editor wiki is currently located). Would that suit your purpose better than working in Wikipedia or ISFDB? The preceding unsigned comment was added by User:Jed.
Actually, I don't have a problem with moving the biographies over here. I think the fundamental strategy to put them in a Wiki is correct - biographies are free-form text which are better suited for wiki applications than a formalized database structure. Wikipedia seemed like the logical location for that two years ago, but I'm continually annoyed by the deletion (or threat of deletion) of authors who aren't considered notable (and from a world perspective they're not, but from a genre perspective they are), the removal or reduction of SF-related articles, and the mass amount of bibliographic duplication taking place whereby people are obviously doing a cut-and-paste of the ISFDB biblio into the article.
It's pretty clear that we would not be able to create the 21st century version of Tuck or Clute/Nicholls on Wikipedia. The articles would be considered too long, and of not having a neutral POV due to critical evaluations of a work's impact on the field. More importantly, it's difficult to impart an SF point of view into the articles. As an example, the focus of the Wikipedia article on Terraforming is on the scientific, ethical, and political impact of terraforming planets such as Mars and Venus, with a minor section at the end which briefly mentions Well's The War of the Worlds and Stapledon's Last and First Men. The Clute/Nicholls article is longer, but focuses on a detailed history of terraforming in the genre (discussing over 20 different works), which would not survive in that form at Wikipedia.
So in general, I'm all for it. We should discuss how the ISFDB should link to the author bio's (new link like the current wikipedia link? Replacement of the wikipedia link? Automated link generation as with the current author bibliographic discussion pages?), as well as what changes should be made to the Main Page such that it appears more... encyclopedic, and less as merely a wiki to support the bibliographic efforts. Alvonruff 05:28, 27 Jan 2007 (CST)
I've started a discussion on this on the community portal, as that's a more central location for this kind of conversation. I suggest we post further follow-ups over there. Mike Christie (talk) 16:30, 27 Jan 2007 (CST)
Unfortunately, that's scrolled off onto the Archived Community Portal (which probably can be linked locally, but I don't know how). We've now got the place to put Author Bios on Author pages, and there are supposedly archived ISFDB bios somewhere, but they don't seem to have been linked up. Of course, nobody has answered the question of how to handle disputes between different biographers. --Dan Hoey 15:24, 25 Mar 2007 (CDT)
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