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The Bra-men of Wikipedia Revisited

By Freya Panache

In late October of 2013, we published a blog post about the sorry state of the Wikipedia article on the brassiere. The Wikipedia article was bloated, full of questionable information, and packed with unnecessary images. That blog post spurred editors to take action and fix some of the problems.

The bra article was over 130 kilobytes of text in October 2013. After the clean-up, it fell to around 82 kilobytes and stayed reasonably stable until this summer. Now, the article is back over 100 kilobytes and nearly as bad as it was a couple of years ago. How did this happen? The answer is simple — no one stopped it from happening.

A history lesson
According to these statistics, 1721 separate editors have made a combined total of 4555 edits to the brassiere article in the past 12 years. Almost half of those (48.2%) were anonymous editors. The average editor has made 2.65 edits. The top editor, Michael Goodyear, has made 549 edits. Most of those were in 2006. His last edit to the article was in 2012. WonderBra Design (Public Domain)

The second most prolific editor of the article is Btphelps, who made 531 edits. I’ll come back to him later.

In third place is editor Enthusiast01, with a mere 114 edits. Enthusiast01 was formerly known as Ewawer.

In fourth place, editor Stephen Burnett. All of his 106 edits were in 2006 or 2007.

Down in seventh place with 58 edits is Altstikman. Altstikman is a sockpuppet account of Btphelps, which means that between the two accounts, he actually made more edits than anyone else. Btphelps is the reason that the bra article is sliding back to where it was a couple of years ago.

The Gender Gap
When people talk about “the gender gap” on Wikipedia, it is sometimes suggested that female editors would be more inclined to edit topics are are traditionally associated with women. Like clothes, for example. Not in this case. None of the top editors of Wikipedia’s article on bras are female. Presumably, none of them wear bras on a regular basis. It would be wrong, however, to say that their interest in bras is not personal.

Btphelps, for example, seems to be an advocate of bralessness. We can assume that this is not based on a preference to go braless himself. What better way to convince women to go braless than by packing Wikipedia with “studies” about how bras cause back pain and increase sagging of the breasts? Guess who the main contributor to Wikipedia’s article on breast sagging is? That’s right, it’s Btphelps. (Altstikman is fourth, incidentally).

Anyone can edit
The article on bras is not unique. Many Wikipedia articles are controlled by a single editor or a small group of editors with an agenda. Occasionally, something will draw the attention of the wider community and the article will be brought back to a more reasonable state, but then the community loses interest. Things may be fine for a little while, but then the editors with an agenda simply pick up where they left off. Womderbra Patent (Public Domain)

Persistence pays off on Wikipedia. Outlasting your opponents is one of the key ways of getting your point of view to stay in an article. Most people don’t want to police articles for months on end to ensure that no one has put something back in that was previously removed. Unless they have a counter-agenda, which is actually what keeps most Wikipedia articles in some sort of rough balance. If you don’t really care whether tree shaping is called “tree shaping” or “arborsculpture“, you would have to be crazy to get involved in such a debate. This is why articles will tend to degrade over time, rather than improve. Lacking actual “editors” with responsibility for the quality of articles, editors with agendas will tend to overwhelm neutral editors simply by being more persistent.

Congratulations, Btphelps, your persistence paid off.

8 comments to The Bra-men of Wikipedia Revisited

  • Furious George

    You forgot to mention another of Phelps’s “wonderful and valuable creations”—

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caresse_Crosby

    74000 bytes of raging hatred for a long-dead brassiere inventor and quite obscure person. Btphelps is clear proof that a misogynist can thrive in Wiki-land by keeping to a very small ediitng area and by working on military articles.

  • Sheri Wysong

    I’m disgusted. As opposed to the Article on Briefs

  • Gol dang it. Why do the men of Wikipedia stick their ever-lovin’ oars into wimmen’s intimate bidness ever time I turn around?

    This behavior is sartinly pointy.

  • Passerby

    Yes it has a lot of padding. But the article Male bra is very small, maybe because male bras “flatten rather than lift”. Its main contributor was Banjiboi, whose Wikipedia profile was lifted by multiple strings then flattened with an indefinite block. Or is he still floating about? Ah Wikipedia, where fact is almost always stranger than fiction.

    Male bra
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_bra

  • John Grimes

    The only solution offered up here is one that would kill Wikipedia stone dead, or would have ensured it would have never got off the ground in the first place.

    Disinterest is a factor, but if this piece was meant as a serious critique of Wikipedia’s failings, it should really have focused on the real issue – multiple admins have this page on their watchlists, and they simply did nothing. In contrast to ordinary editors, admins are supposedly trusted by the community to take an interest in things that don’t personally interest them, for the good of Wikipedia.

    As well as naming the editors who have been degrading this article, you could have also named the admins who did nothing to stop them, even though what they were doing is against policy. A quick check of the talk page reveals the signatures of NeilN and Alison, both admins, and both considered good ones by Wikipediocracy (Alison good enough to be made a moderator on your own forum). Another admin, Iridescent touched the article, but only to perform typo fixing. Bongwarrior has also touched it. All these admins were at the article in the last year, and no doubt many others I don’t recognise.

    If it turns out they’re not really all that interested in this sort of policing activity, maybe their status as admins should be reconsidered?

    I also note in the article history some of the rock star editors of Wikipedia, the so called best of the best, the elite. The very people who would presumably be appointed official editors, if such a system ever came about. None of whom get name-checked here for why they chose to stop watching the article either.

  • Mike Cleven

    “Lacking actual “editors” with responsibility for the quality of articles, editors with agendas will tend to overwhelm neutral editors simply by being more persistent.”

    largely by recruiting others ignorant of the issues, ideally admins who revel in using their powers to block and ban and denounce ‘behaviour’ as a way to avoid ever having to discuss actual issues of content.

    There should be “editors” with content ruling-power who can override any snotty admin ranting about “behaviour” as an excuse to shut down “controversy” ie. someone pointing out what a load of twaddle various articles are.

    As for agendas, I’ve had my fill of trying to combat those and being called names and being threatened with blocks and actually being blocked because someone has kissed up to enough hostile admins so as to bypass “consensus”; between articles that are rank original research from teh start (Quadripoint, and “Four Corners (Canada)” and ones t hat are heavily politicized under cover of using selective and biased citations and excluding balanced sources and differing ideas “Chinese Canadians in Vancouver” and “Chinese Canadians in British Columbia” and seeing a wine industry shill claiming the Great Sonoran Desert stretches into CAnada and chiming in on the ANI that blocked me about me being argumentative….

    so much bullshit, so many fools, so many people who enjoy authority without having the intelligence or education to even half-understand what they’re passing judgement on….

    adminship should have logic tests and impartiality tests and not be passed out like ass-wipe like it has been; age and seniority should count for something, also, instead of being tossed out as NPA when it is raised (I’m 60 and was blocked by a campaign launched by an 18-year-old admin).

    Sure, weirdo guys editing bra articles is a problem; but the overall problem of “people with agendas” working to destroy, humiliate, thwart and ultimately block or ban people with neutrality and fairness as an agenda is all over the place and pretty much part of what Wikipedia has become.

    And bear in mind, the harshest and weirdest behaviour I’ve seen isn’t from male admins; its from female ones….. never admitting they’re wrong, taking sides without wanting to know the context/issues and even ruling them out of order until their authority is heeded (“yes, mom”) and throwing uppity hissy fits when someone talks back to them….

  • Mike Cleven

    point of my previous comment, though, was in regards to the persistence of the 18 year old admin (who apparently got his adminship when he was about 12 years old) and his exhaustive and nonsensical arguments launched to justify ignoring my provision of information and cites and then to lobby to get me blocked “so he wouldn’t be interfered with” … by someone actually from the area and who knows its history and where all the sources he doesn’t want to know about ARE….. persistent in that lobbying all the time while persistently expanding tthe articles in question with info-junk and pejorative/biased original research (the ‘Hongcouver’ section is particularly noxious as original research/political fiction and he didn’t give a fig for the fact that name had been debated over and pronounced UNDUE by Canadian editors long before he set up shop in Canadian article space and started demanding his (American) right to use whatever terms he wanted, or conflate one source’s usage as the standard (e.g. capital-W “Whites” which is not used in WP:CAnada standards, and with good reason).

    So many unreasonable people with no real education (though in his case, a spanky-new degree and attitude to go with) empowered with adminships and apparently a special backroom where they can discuss and denounce active editors such as myself….and then get condemnatory if it comes out that one of their judgements’ victims actually consults other Wikipedians out side Wikipedia…while they do it all the time.

    Hypocrisy and stupidity combined are the essence of the Wikipedia hierarchy now and maybe always have been; and even when serious issues are raised e.g. here they’re in rather specious contexts e.g. whether or not more female admins would make the place saner and more rational… in my experience of them, it would be less so…. and more and more arrogant and unyielding and illogical.

    So persistence by an agenda-driven teenager to block a much more knowledgeable-on-the-subject than he is paid off; he is now No. 20 or so on the list of all-time contributors (up from 43 or so when all this started) and THAT was used by teh admin blocking me (a female) as validation for his superiority as an editor/contributor….as though numerical contributions of vast piles of politicized data-junk were actually useful contributions….or had any quality at all even as writing.

    But you can’t criticize someone’s shoddy writing and artificial grammar or padded content or OR or selective sourcing or piont out that they’re ‘ill-informed’ when they obviously are….. that’s a “personal attack” and despite ten years here there was NO GOOD FAITH about anythning I had to say; all of which, to a man/woman among those lobbying to block me, was pronounced not wworth reading…

    Ignorance is its own reward.

  • YohrMum

    Just to update this – slightly short of a month on, the article has been greatly repaired and improved.

    Much of the bloat and questionable material has been removed, the article currently weighs in at 53 Kb, instead of the bloated 100 Kb+ which it was.

    The “Good Article” status, which never should have been awarded, has been stripped.

    Congratulations, and many thanks, to all who reacted to this blog post to once again repair this article.
    Let’s see if wikipedia can keep it that way…

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