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Why You Can’t Remove Disparaging and Irrelevant Info from Wikipedia

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For a few years now I've had serious issues with the quality and the nature of information as it appears on Wikipedia. Most recently I took issue with Wikipedia's citation for the African-American author Zane.


This is not just a mental exercise.  I believe the nature of some of Wikipedia's entries, as in the example below, actually hurts Black people.  Wikipedia also allows corporate sites to promote themselves while not extending the same benefit to independent sites.

The real travesty however is the fact that Google has evaluated Wikipedia's website by, giving it disproportionate exposure and influence by ranking it at the top of countless search results, regardless of the relative quality of alternative websites or even other encyclopedias.


I contend the following text does not belong on an encyclopedia citation for for Zane:


In 2014, she was cited by Comptroller of Maryland Peter Franchot as one of Maryland's top tax cheats, owing the state $340,833.58.


I believe the information is not relevant to Zane's work as an author.  If some knows anything about editing an encyclopedia, or can otherwise justify revealing personal, and obviously sensitive, information about this author I would be really interested.  I don't think similar information, for everyone else cited in else in Wikipedia is revealed. 


I would also be willing to bet that if we looked at amount of negative or scandalous information ascribed to people cited in Wikipedia one would find Black people are disproportionately represented with negative information.


Well I tried to remove the irrelevant information.  Here is what I experienced a history of what happened before I got there.




Immediately after the story, about Zane's tax liability broke in the Washington Post someone named Dcoleman123 added to Wikipedia.





A few days later someone named JAllen removed the Tax information




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Undeterred, a few hours later, DColeman added the information back to Zane's Wikpedia page, Also revealing Zane's real name in the process.




JAllen removed the tax information again.  Also posting the precaution:
"Please refrain from making unconstructive edits to Wikipedia, as you did at Zane (author). Your edits appear to constitute vandalism and have been automatically reverted."




Shortly after that Materialscientist, jumps into the fray reposting the tax information and chastizes JAllen for removing the tax information without providing an explanation.  Again the reason for removing the information should be self evident, right?







JAllen who is now being ganged up on by two people rips the tax information out for the 3rd time! 






OK so now it is three against one as a new person, Diiscool, puts the tax information back. Why do these folks feel so strongly that this information has to be on Wikipedia?






JAllen, apparently feeling that no page for Zane is better than the overtly negative one the other Wikipedia editors obviously want launches the "nuclear option" and blanks out the entire page!




Immediately, as if waiting around for a reaction from JAllen, ClueBot NG restored the blanked out page -- accusing JAllen of "possible vandalism"?!  I suspect "ClueBot NG" is an automated process.  So Now JAllen is not only combating several people hell bent on making sure that Tax info remains they also have to fight a automated processes as well.





JAllen, after two days of trying makes no more attempts to rectify the problem.


This afternoon, despite knowing "how they roll" at Wikipedia I also removed Zane's tax information using the following justification; "Zane's personal unresolved tax liability is irrelevant and does not belong in an encyclopedic reference of an author."


I also added a link to my Zane Page IMDB is able to post a link to their website (Wikipedia link to IMDB)




Less than 30 minutes later FRZE add the tax information back for the 5th time and removed my link to AALBC.com.  Why is a link to IMDB OK, but not a link to AALBC.com again I welcome ideas?




Well that is my latest dealing with Wikipedia.  This is just one reason why I am not a fan.


It looks like Zane tax info will remain.  I find this outrageous. 


I also can not thing of a positive reason for the determination to keep the tax information on Wikipedia.

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While I understand net neutrality and privacy are of prime importance, the amount of time you've spent on this fighting for a person who is more than capable of spending this time fighting for themselves kind of throws me for a loop. I don't know Zane, or her social status, but it is up to her to spend time editing and fighting for her perception in social media, on the web, etc. I would prefer that you do what you always do in promoting and fighting for literature and it's importance and relevance in society and becoming a prominent voice in the direction that social media has driven independent websites.


When we become public personalities, our private lives take a hit. That is understood. If you simply look up Nicholas Cage his tax information is readily available on Wikipedia which shows that there is not a bias in who they decide to share this information with. I only use him as an example because he was one of the few white guys I could think of with disparaging tax information.


As far as editing websites, if they are making public other stars information, it only stands to reason that they will keep Zane's information active and up for the sake of staying "balanced". When I was a professor I didn't allow Wikipedia as a source and I very rarely use it in my day to day work. Honestly, I don't know if this is worth the fight. If she's behind on her taxes, pay em so they can add, "she did have tax trouble."


Just my thoughts.

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Well, Troy, when swimming with the sharks you gotta wound them in their soft underbelly.  In this situation that is causing you so much angst, the villain here is not Wikipidia, - or Zane.  IT IS THE IRS!!  Revealing that this government bully has beat down a famous person does not besmirch the victim or scandalize the public; it just reinforces everyone's dislike of the tax nazis, and inspires empathy for anyone who runs afoul of this juggernaut. 


And, I agree with DBurns that any celeb is fair game for the media.  Look at the field day it is having over the the Woody Allen-Mia Farrow debacle.  You can't make this stuff up.   But you can eat it up if you're a pop culture vulture who does not bother to vet Wikipedia.  

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I disagree with both of you. Your tax info does NOT belong on a page about you, regardless of how famous you are (& honestly Zane is not at the level where you should even care). The rest of her life details are not there, no one has taken the time to write out her life story so NO the tax thing is just malicious and ridiculous.
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Look, this is not a fight about Zane.  This is really a fight about the very nature of the web.  When I first wrote about this, my article was titled, "What is Wrong with Goodreads and Wikipedia?  Chris this IS the fight for "...promoting and fighting for literature and it's importance and relevance in society..."


We have lost, and are losing, a great deal online--particularly as it pertains to Black books.  Our voices have been almost completely squashed, what little we have is controlled by corporations who now decide what we see, who sees it and when.  These corporations don't have our interest at heart and are increasingly hostile to us.  Zane is just a recent, blatant, example.  Of course these adverse changes extend across the entire media landscape, but the corporate control of the Web has just been so swift and complete.


See ten years ago if you did a search on Zane you would easily find many sites with interviews, reviews of her books, discussion forums a talking about her work.  AALBC.com, deservedly, would be in the top 3 of the search results.  We'd reviewed several of Zane's books, had exclusive video of her, and she participated in these forums.  Today the #1 result on a Google search on Zane is Wikipedia, where we learn more about her tax liability than her numerous literary accomplishments.


As a result, websites, typically Black owned ones, who would have covered Zane, have disappeared unable to sufficiently monetize their websites because Google is busy propping up Wikipedia with scandalous content, multiple Amazon pages, and even their own content.   AALBC.com is on the 2nd page today.  


Other websites, who are solely profit driven, then republish this scandalous information because they know it will drive traffic. As a result, we get less meaningful, uplifting content and more scandal. We all lose.


This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Part of what I've been trying to do is help people understand what is happening.  But this is very difficult.  The general public really does not understand Google's impact (driving traffic away from Black sites), people don't appreciate what is wrong with Wikipedia ), and of course everyone loves social media (controlling what we see to better sell of stuff) .


I thought pointing out how all these massive corporations, from the Washington Post, to Google, Wikipedia and Amazon have piled on Zane in an aggressive and overt attempt to knock Zane down and diminish her brilliance. 


But it looks like I was wrong, I find it staggeringly outrageous that so few will advocate for our sister and even more will help tear her down.  I think it is foolish to believe that just because someone is a celebrity means that their lives must now be an open book subject to the scrutiny and uninformed opinions of the masses -- when did this happen?


Finally, and this is perhaps the biggest problem:  We are so weak that we can't do anything about. We have too few conscious platforms.

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I applaud your dedication, Troy, keeping in mind that you, as an independent entrpreneur, have a vested interest in this. The fact the Black people get the short end of the stick in all of this is not surprising because of the pervasive institutionalized racism that involves every aspect of our lives.   But don't underestimate public cynicism. Just because people find somethings interesting doesn't mean they believe it's true or give great weight to it.  News is not about the ordinary; it's about the extraordinary, something which triggers curiosity.  What the various media report and the internet filters, all provide a diversion for the public.  But people are not that trusting. They do take things with a grain of salt. They do consider the source. Common sense is not altogether obsolete and nobody really trusts the media nowadays.  What seemingly concerns you is a desire to print the truth; but not the whole truth. Unfortunately, all of the fame and fortune Zane has accumulated over time exacts a price. Her personal life is no longer hers. She sold her soul to the devil of public scrutiny.  And she didn't pay her taxes.   And most of all, she is not unique.  It's not as if what's ideal has ever prevailed in this dog-eat-dog world. Becoming outraged about this is an exercise in naivete.


Google and Wikipedia and Amazon are profit-driven monopolies.  So are Microsoft and Apple. Independent entrepreneurs are hard pressed to go up against them. But this is nothing new in this capitalistic country. And as you stated, reversing this is an uphill battle. So what do black authors turn to overcome obstacles?  The grapevine for one thing.  Don't underestimate the power of word-of-mouth in the black book reading community. But most of all, they can use the nemesis that uses them.  After realizing that very few people earn a living from writing books, they can settle for the next best thing: the exposure that the infamous internet offers via web sites and ebooks and - you guessed it:  FACEBOOK!  OMG!  :mellow:  

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Troy, I understand what you're saying, but it's not foolish to think that a person in the public eye should expect this treatment. It is simply the reality that we live in. Does this mean I don't understand what is happening? I know more than most how the net works in regard to search/SEO and placement. I've run two distinctly different companies that encountered how thoroughly the web is dominated by large media entities vs small companies. My first company Center Court Basketball was the biggest recruitment site in the south. After about a year, when you searched for informaiton about basketball recruits from the Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas area, Rivals and Scout.com both bumped my website and decreased subscriptions to my site by college coaches. I knew this would happen and I knew I couldn't stop it so I create a larger network by adding writers in Cali, Alabama, Louisiana and an additional site here in Memphis. This only improved my results slightly. Sometimes a fight, while there are good intentions, is basically just a fight for the sake of fighting. I eventually stopped running my site and my writers were picked up by Dunk Dog and other websites in the network that is connected to CBS, Yahoo, etc.


Now on a different front, my running shoe company encounters this exact same issues when I have to try and garner interest in the brand. Nike so thoroughly controls the athletic shoe market that my brand although there is some serious SEO work invested in my site, doesn't even chart when you search for lightweight running shoes. How did I counteract this? I incorporated my sneaker shop which carries Nike and Jordan into my website and my brand shows up in the same searches now. I also paid for Amazon Ads and utilzed Nike descriptions in my tagging. This also helped.


Now back to writing and literature. I've paid for and you've posted my books on your sites for years. I never capitalized because I never promoted my writing in conjunction with the work you did, so my books didn't sell. However, I have always watched what you were doing and whenever I could I would write an article about aalbc or I would list the site on my blogroll, or as I've done recently incorporated your videos and banners into my site. The reason I do this is because in my head, this is the most that I can do to help because I know what we are up against.


Zane is a public figure. She will be placed in a position that will attempt to tear her down. It has always been this way in entertainment. That is just the way it is. Your use of her, doesn't and won't change a thing about this. I used Nicholas Cage to show that this happens to all entertainers. Now if you wrote out a complete entry for Wikipedia about Zane and they didn't post that also, then yes that would be a huge problem. However, I'm with Cynique, she should pay her taxes. You know that Black folks have to be above reproach in all that they do when they become stars.


Remember the old webrings? Where at the bottom of each page you could go to the next website? That is the only thing that will move sites back towards gaining any traffic from social media platforms. Right now, you're right, people aren't very conscious. They don't realize that Facebook is a black hole. That every link in Facebook is a target and always leaves Facebook open in the background. How will you and I and other website owners deal with this? We can only continue to put out there that people need to pick 5 websites and visit them daily. What I've tried to do with cbpublish.com is invite writers to become a part of the site. I create them a profile and they can post articles about various topics. Basically creating an Examiner type atmosphere. But you know what happens everytime Troy?


BLACK FOLKS QUIT WRITING AND START THEIR OWN BLOGS!!!! Every single time they fail to realize that there is power in numbers. What happens to their sites after the initial enthusiasm of starting their own blog? They stop writing and then they are too embarrassed to come back and write because they feel 'some kind of way'. There is a simple solution


Oh Rochelle, tax information is public record once you owe.


There is a simple solution. AALBC has to become like the examiner. Which is why I keep bringing up wordpress to you. You have to give as many writers as possible a platform to post stories. Those people will then share their articles on aalbc with their facebook and social media peeps. Driving traffic to your site and building the brand into a Huffpost styled entity. The more writers the more you can vet and only choose the best. I failed at doing this, but we respond to you and respect your work so we would contribute. If you have a roster of 50 writers content is King and can be staggered to post daily giving people something to read at all times. I'm sure you know this, but this dialogue is about solutions. This is the only viable solution to the problem of conglomerate control of the web that has forced Blacks to become non-existent.

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You all said a lot and I'll probably miss something but here is goes, addressing issues in no particular order:


I liked the idea and was brainstorming a way to implement a modern day version of this with several other.  The conversation petered out-- folks are in survival mode.


A Portal for Writers
This is a really good idea.  I always thought it was a good idea.  Here is my experience.  Black people want to write for the HuffingtonPost.  I know writers who scoffed at what say a QBR or BIBR would pay then to write an article, but then those same writers turn around and write for the HuffingtonPost for FREE.  Many were disappointed when the property was sold netting millions for Ariana and zip for the writers.


There are many websites that follow the examiner/huffpost model and some even pay writers a portion of the advertising revenue generated.  There was one popular site (the name escapes me now) but Google killed it by pushing in down in search results -- I forgot the rational for the hit in ranking.  I'll try to find the article.  I will resurrect conversations around the idea.  Thanks Chris.


Zane Put on Blast
Of course she should pay her taxes--I never disputed that. But that was not my point  We live in a different world today public records can go viral quite easily.  Perhaps this information should not be made public anymore. In reality, the information is only used by people interested in harming you or capitalizing off your hardship (as the Washington Post profited off the Zane information).


When I first met Zane she allowed me to take her photo, but asked that I don't put it online and I had no problem respecting that.  It was several years before she gave me permission to use her her photos.  I didn't even know her full name until this week, it was not important to me.  What is important was the words she put on paper--period.   Today people share your personal problems as all over the internet and even updating our modern day World Book Encyclopedia in damn near real time with the info. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this one.


Yes I'm effected as an independent 
Yes I'm effected, we all are effected. Do you know, for example, most black children living in New York City have very little chance of getting a decent education?  This is a really big deal, but since Black people have no voice the problem just festers.  It is now generational--the parents don't appreciate what is happening to their children because it happened to them and their parents before them.  They simply don't know any better. 


Big corporations have robbed us of our online voice right before our eyes .  Younger folks or people with less experience online have no clue that the internet is getting jacked up, because they have nothing to compare it to.  And older people have no platform to explain what is going on -- even if they did no one would care.  In much the same way many Black students don't care they are not being educated. 


Chris and Cynique I appreciate your support over the years -- thank you. 

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I say don't focus on the big names for a writer's network. Smaller names will generate their own traffic and build their online publishing resume and then they can capitalize on others visiting from other writers. I definitely think the Huffpost/Examiner model is the only way we can counter all of the damage being done. The more we say, 'you can't earn ad revenue from your site because Facebook is killing you' maybe people will hear us. Let me know what to do on my end and I'm doing it. I have already started the transition away from Facebook for my author's page. At the end of February, it will be removed. I created the social network/buddy press on my site and while no one is responding, I will keep chipping away and eventually someone will respond. I know that people will not leave Facebook so I'm trying to figure out my way around it. I guess that's our only option.

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Chris can you provide the link to the "social network/buddy press" area on your site or explain how it works. 


Also why don't you hyperlink your signature here so that people can easily check out your website.  AALBC.com has a domain authority in the 60's and Alexa rank in the low 100's and I don't do the "no follow" crap Google wants you to do, so AALBC.com is a still a good site to have a link from.


I also noticed that the content served on your site, from AALBC.com does not fit the position.  I can either resize it or give you new code to use.  Let me know which you prefer.  The Book Look video program, normally in that position, is scheduled to relaunch in March.


Facebook Protest

I've already committed to not using Facebook in 2014 but I had not considered removing my profile.  Now that you mention it Chris, that is really what I need to do too.


I'm thinking it would be even more effective to make a statement, a form of protest, by doing something like making our Facebook walls completely Black.  Maybe include a single line of text explaining why maybe just the word "Freedom" or "visit my website" That might be a little corny, but I think a form of protest would be more effective than just quietly going away--especially if we can get enough people to do it. 


You know the same way many people used the "hoodie" to show support for Trayvon.  This would be a protracted long term effort to show support for indie independent content producers.  We could even all update our profiles will periodic updates, explaining what we are doing to help facilitate our collective independence.


I know it will be hard to tear people away from Facebook, but if we can identify the people who recognize Facebook for what it is and show they how we can help them get readers, then maybe it can work. 


I don't care if I'm the only one doing it.  This is what I'm going to do.


Again if people want to use social to play games and talk to friends, that is cool, but we should not we as writers and content producers should not publishing any form of content on Facebook or engaging with each other or readers on Facebook without any form of compensation, control or ownership.

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I'm posting daily to my author's page on Facebook and not explaining why I'm moving away. I probably need to explain it and continue doing what I'm doing. I think explaining it in a short, concise manner using the same words and asking other writers to do the same would be a start. If you come up with a short, concise message that people can share so we can be uniform then I'm down since I'm already in the process of moving anyway.


Here is the link to the buddypress. It looks like Google+ with me just writing on there alone, but you will get the idea when you see it. I've created two groups: http://www.cbpublish.com/groups/ a social club and business club. I can create a Writer's Block or however many groups I like, but I have to get people to the page. I'm realizing I have to directly tag people to get a response or people will act like they didn't see it.


I agree that people won't leave. They will stay and talk to friends, but in regard to business I have yet to see it result in any real increase in business for me on either the sneaker or book side.

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OK I found the group and signed up for membership.  I will explore using buddypress on Huria Search.


Also please use the code found on this page: http://huria.org/able/booklook-240.txt to update the Book Look Video on your website  It will display a video thst is 240 pixels wide and will fit better on your website's template.

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I agree Richard, but Google's influence is strong.  If Google keeps sending people to Wikipedia, people are not likely to change. 


Raising awareness is extremely difficult, as there are few platform that are willing to invest time and resources.  You find more platforms interested in spreading word about Zane's tax issues, it is simply more lucrative. 

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