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Unpaid Advocacy on Wikipedia

by The Unpaid Critic

Neelix’ namesake, a character from the “Star Trek” TV series

One of Wikipedia’s most active editors left abruptly last week, with little notice or comment. Why would Neelix, a Wikipedia admin and campus ambassador who had been editing since 2006, suddenly quit the project which had occupied so much of his free time for so many years? At first glance it looked like he was the target of a bullying campaign from an internet forum, but a closer look reveals a much more interesting story.

Hipinion Tara Teng was Miss World Canada 2012. In late March 2013, Neelix created an article about her on Wikipedia. About a year later, a discussion titled “this is the story of an abolitionist as told by her stalker” was started on a web forum called Hipinion. Based on the length of the article and amount of detail included, the participants of that forum suspected that Neelix was obsessed with Teng and was using Wikipedia as a vehicle to further this obsession.

It isn’t hard to understand why Hipinion members might come to the conclusion that Neelix was obsessed with Tara Teng. Neelix made literally hundreds of edits to the article over many months. At its largest, the biography was over 100,000 bytes of wikitext. To put this in context, the biography of former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell is only 40,337 bytes. It is difficult to imagine that a 20-something beauty pageant winner merits a biography that is more than twice as long as that of Canada’s first female head of government, a woman who has also had careers as a lawyer, university professor, and diplomat.

The Hipinion thread is no longer publicly viewable, although some of the postings can be seen

…continue reading Unpaid Advocacy on Wikipedia