Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The 3RR exemption

Egyptian hieroglyphics from the Ptolemaic Temple of Kom Ombo preserve written norms that date from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, a thousand years earlier.Warning, esoteric topic!
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Warning, this is an esoteric topic. Those not steeped in the lore (and lingo) of WP may have no idea what I am talking about :)

The English Wikipedia Biography of Living Persons (BLP) policy includes an exemption to the normal prohibition on edit warring beyond three reverts (3RR) stating that reversion of edits that introduce problematic material (or which interfere with attempts to correct problematic BLP articles in general) are not subject to this rule, that is, reverts can be carried out indefinitely, if it becomes necessary.

Recently, Kim Bruning, who I generally admire strongly, attempted to edit the policy page to remove this exemption. A massive discussion ensued, starting at the section in the link, and going on for many subsequent sections over many screens (and spilling into various other pages as well, including the talk pages of most of the major participants, including myself)

Reading all this is instructive, as it shows that sometimes the Bold Revert Discuss (BRD) model breaks down in the face of trying to modify policy. There were a fair number of bones of contention, among them whether the BLP policy is prescriptive (it is written to be enforced as written, and changes when there is agreement it needs to change) or descriptive (it is written and updated to reflect actual practice, and changes as practice changes). Almost all policy at Wikipedia is descriptive but there are a few exceptions. Another bone of contention was whether there was a problem that needs remediating or not, and how did we measure it.

I am not going to in this post ascribe too much, as I was involved and the discussion got rather heated. It was a rather lame discussion in some respects.

What do you think? Should the 3RR policy have a BLP exemption? If so, is it properly being used/enforced? Was how Kim went at this the proper approach? Or did he mishandle things (it was for the most part him against a fair contingent of folk saying he had things all wrong)? Was my assessment after the fact too harsh?


MessedRocker said...

If you do not mind me rule lawyering, the 3RR exemption in BLP is inherent, for inserting unreferenced material in any article is academic vandalism, and vandalism has always been exempt to 3RR.

Lar said...

You'd think so... except that not all BLP violating material is introduced by vandals. Some is by good faith folk. I think we use the term "vandal" way too much.