Look Me Up Under 'Missing Link'

By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 3, 2006

The Shiny Diamonds, a spunky band from Canada, make music they call "mind-blowing thrash folk." On Wednesday, the lads and their songs were tagged with a less flattering description: "non-notable."

This was not some hasty, capricious opinion, either. No, this was the official verdict of a squad of stern-sounding editors at Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, which recently began the process of booting an entry about the Shiny Diamonds off the site.

One Wiki editor counted a mere 97 Google hits about the group and noted on a Wiki page that all those citations "seem to be myspace or other self-promotion." Three other Wiki editors soon weighed in, each recommending "delete," which in Wiki-speak translates roughly as "Beat it, losers."

Up in Vancouver, B.C., where the band's lead singer was reached by phone, the news hit kind of hard.

"Dude, I don't know what they were thinking," said Tim the Mute, which, you won't be surprised to learn, is a stage name and the only name he would give. In mid-sentence, Tim's cellphone went dead and a few minutes later, he sent an e-mail.

"I urge whatever Internet-snob wiki-geeks who deem our band 'non-notable' to look at their own lives," he fumed. "The Internet is about sharing and the point of Wikipedia is that there's room for everything."

That, it turns out, isn't exactly true.

Casual readers might assume that Wikipedia's goal is a complete account of all earthly knowledge, but the site maintains a rather elaborate set of criteria for admission. The several thousand unpaid volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia spend a lot of energy ensuring that people, bands, companies, and everything else meet what it calls "notability guidelines."

Let's sum it up this way: Not everyone is Wiki-worthy.

In fact, Wikipedia jettisons more than 100 entries every day, many of them from people who posted autobiographies after registering on the site. (Writing your own entry, as we will see, is "strongly discouraged.") The list of nominated rejects is posted each day on a page titled "articles for deletion," and because all of Wikipedia is transparent and public, anyone can watch the editors' votes roll in, and witness those ultimately deemed non-notable slink away, in real time, after getting cyber-gonged off the stage. Type "wikipedia deletion log" into Google for a peek at the latest.

There goes T.C. Congi, described as a "random school kid" by an editor. Buh-bye, Muhammad Islam, also "being considered for deletion," the son of the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens. ("Being the offspring of a famous musician is not enough to merit notability.") Still on the bubble is Kim Eternity, a "minor porn actress" who "doesn't seem to have any awards" and who has done "nothing noteworthy in her niche," various editors wrote. Supporters pointed out that Ms. Eternity, among other achievements, had appeared in several issues of Voluptuous magazine.

The proceedings are generally courteous, a quality prized in the Wikipedia ranks, but a tone of you've-gotta-be-kidding occasionally seeps in. "Vain vanity in vain," quipped one editor, voting a 28-year-old illustrator named Peter Mitchell off the island. "Crystalballery, vanity, unencyclopedic, non-notability," snapped an editor after reading an entry on an Israeli model named Esti Ginzborg, which included the claim that "Many say she has a bright future."

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