April 22, 2014

A long NYT obituary for someone whose accomplishment lay in the field of editing Wikipedia.

"'It is a huge loss for Wikipedia,' said Sue Gardner, the executive director of the foundation in San Francisco that runs Wikipedia, who has made a priority of getting more women to edit it. 'She may have been our single biggest contributor on these topics — female authors, women’s history.'"
Ms. Wadewitz defied many of the stereotypes of a Wikipedia editor — young, male, tech-obsessed. But she was typical of Wikipedia editors in “being persnickety, fact-obsessed, citation-obsessed,” Ms. Gardner said.
While Wikipedia is famously the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, the bulk of the unpaid work is done by a relatively small number of people willing to devote the time to do the research, navigate the editing system and learn the community mores.
Adrianne Wadewitz was 37. She died in a fall, rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park.

IN THE COMMENTS: David said (referring to the mockery of a 3rd-year law student who takes school seriously):
This woman probably would have enjoyed the third year of law school. I have stopped being surprised at the high quality of many Wikipedia articles. All these people who love their subjects and are willing to share their knowledge while getting so little credit. Bless them all.
Yes, there are saints on the internet, and they do things like this.

20 comments:

richlb said...

Is 37 not "young" anymore?

mike said...

It's sad. But, yeah. NYT?

mccullough said...

No wonder she took so long to get her PhD. She must have been an insomniac with 49,000 edits/entries. Late 30s is a bit old to take up rock climbing.

madAsHell said...

She looks so bookish. I think it is unusual for her to be a rock climber as well. Was she PUSHED beyond her limits?? How many witnesses were there?

David said...

This woman probably would have enjoyed the third year of law school. I have stopped being surprised at the high quality of many Wikipedia articles. All these people who love their subjects and are willing to share their knowledge while getting so little credit. Bless them all.

Richard Dolan said...

Sad for her family. She was a post-doc who wrote for Wikipedia, and (so the obit says) was the single most prolific contributor to articles about "female authors, women's history." OK, great. Anyone interested in whoever might claim the same honor about Wikipedia articles dealing with "male authors, men's history"? Didn't think so.

But still odd to see the prominent obit in the NYT. Is it the same oddness that made it blogable, or is it the not-so-subtle condescension in the NYT's decision to play up a woman whose claim to fame is that she wrote about women on Wikipedia? I suppose it's a bit of both.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Wikipedia.

Once in a while, some tomfoolery or not-so-hidden agenda. But mostly an excellent first source on any topic, no matter how technical or obscure.

Thank you for your time, Adrianne. You will be missed.

Larry Nelson said...

madAsHell said...
She looks so bookish. I think it is unusual for her to be a rock climber as well.



Many rock climbers are engineers, scientists or nerdy types. Some of the best rock climbers in the world are women.

Peter said...

What's to say? I guess it's nice that she did all that, but, writing in Wikipedia is like writing on water.

Illuninati said...

David said...
"I have stopped being surprised at the high quality of many Wikipedia articles. All these people who love their subjects and are willing to share their knowledge while getting so little credit. Bless them all."

I want to second that opinion.

Incidentally, Joshua Tree National Monument is a wonderful playground with beautiful rock formations. I it is very easy to get killed scrambling on the rock formations since what appears to be an easy climb can suddenly become difficult.

roundeye said...

It is unusual for a woman to have an interest in this sort of thing.

I have an unusual hobby, golf course architecture. I don't design golf courses but I study golf courses, travel to see and study (not necessary play) outstanding golf course, study the history of the artform, read books about it, etc.

If you are not a nut about it it is terminally boring. Even my friends who I play golf with look at me like I'm a weirdo. But there are more than a few of us out there. There are a couple of websites and discussion boards out there.

My point: at the largest golf architecture board there are three women participants out of 1500 or more.

Women Tend not to be obsessive hobbists like the type of people who amend wiki articles.

Ann Althouse said...

"What's to say? I guess it's nice that she did all that, but, writing in Wikipedia is like writing on water."

"Here lies one whose name was writ in water."

Ann Althouse said...

"All your better deeds / Shall be in water writ."

David said...

Everything is writ on water. But once in a while they become fossil tracks, and we are amazed.

MarkW said...

Incidentally, Joshua Tree National Monument is a wonderful playground with beautiful rock formations. I it is very easy to get killed scrambling on the rock formations since what appears to be an easy climb can suddenly become difficult.

Apparently she died on a rappel after a climb--the anchors all failed. It wasn't her mistake that killed her, but whoever set the anchors. I can't imagine having to live with that.

Will said...

I never understood the whole issue with the male/female ration of Wikipedia contributions. Isn't Wikipedia the ultimate example of "mansplaining"?

George Grady said...

ὅρκους ἐγὼ γυναικὸς εἰς ὕδωρ γρἀφω.

--Σοφοκλῆς

John Lynch said...

Too bad. Loss to the world.

Nice to have a post about someone who didn't kill themselves.

stlcdr said...

I'm curious about the 'feminist' angle, here. Isn't Wikipedia supposed to be fact based? Are there female facts vs. male facts?

By putting forward that it's important to have female non-stereotypical wiki editors, implies that there's a bias in said articles.

People do things, like rock climbing or even free climbing, that no one expects them to do. Not all people fit stereotypes, and do stereotypical things.

When people do a thing, from outward appearances they shouldn't (sic) be doing, we do express anything from surprise to disappointment; in this case, 'she was doing something she should not have been doing and she died'. Not saying that's the case, here.

I guess I'm hung up on the stereotype; mentioned both in the article and in the comments, effectively.

Btw, was she rock climbing or free climbing?

David said...

"Are there female facts vs. male facts?"

Hooo, boy! That needs its own post where respect for the departed is not called for.