• Jan 19, 2011

How big a battlefield is Wikipedia? It's a big one, even if we ignore all that Sarah Palin stuff. The latest round of edits v. counteredits comes on the hybrid car pages. AutoblogGreen was sent the an anonymous message through a friend (reprinted in whole after the jump) that describes the ongoing disappearance of Wikipedia articles about hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Accord Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid. Why are these pages disappearing? Is it a giant conspiracy against green vehicles? It's not easy to get clear answers from the jargon-filled Wikipedia "talk" history page on the issue, but the answer seems to be "no." But people certainly disagree with each other about what's important.

What appears to be happening is that some Wikipedia editors are making the case that certain hybrid models aren't different enough from their standard gas-burning counterparts to warrant separate pages. Others say, no, they should, because automakers shouldn't get a ton of credit for making a slightly greener version of their old cars. Give us something new that represents a serious change, and the world will pay attention. The "disappearing" model pages have just been merged, so a lot of the info is still there.

What's more interesting is that discussion is also taking place to merge articles about pure electric or plug-in versions of existing models, like the Toyota Prius Plug-in, Mini E and Mitsubishi i MiEV. In these cases, isn't the new powertrain a big enough deal for its own Wiki entry? Our tipster writes:

Reading through the long discussion is amazing, info related to the environmental and social impacts of automobiles is called green fancruft, Wikipedia jargon for information relating to a particular topic that is only of interest to other fans. ... And we thought that electric-drive powertrain cars and their relationship with mitigating greenhouse emissions and contributing to reduce dependence on imported oil were already mainstream. It could be that the glider is more important that what is under the hood, or that fueling from a pump or a plug is the same? Please, wake up, we are in the 21st century!

Make sure to check out the full submission after the jump, then head over to Wikipedia and contribute if you've got some clout there.

[Source: Anonymous, Miss Electric]

AutoblogGreen was sent the following anonymous message through a friend:

I consult Wikipedia often and a few years ago did my bit in trying to upgrade the article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug-in_hybrid , which at one point was a "Featured" article. For anyone who has never submitted an addition/correction to a Wikipedia article, you may never have noticed that each article has a related "Discussion" page and a very useful "History" tool that lets users track who made what revisions over time. I warn you that Wikipedia has developed some pretty complicated rules and its own terminology in an attempt to ensure high quality for open-source evolving articles.

Here's the report; please let me know if you write about it or have questions for the correspondent.

Hybrid articles are disappearing from Wikipedia

Wikipedia in general has a comprehensive and updated coverage about green cars. Surprisingly, during the last months articles dealing with some best selling hybrids have disappeared, including the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Accord Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, and the new Korean Hyundai Elantra LPI Hybrid. Hopefully Wikipedia keeps track of the history of all edits, so after some searching, we discovered that articles have been merged systematically, and currently here is a heated ongoing discussion to carry out more mergers, including the Civic Hybrid, Fusion Hybrid, Prius Plug-in, and actually there is a waiting list, including the Chinese BYD F3DM plug-in, and the all electric Mitsubishi i MiEV, the Mini E, Toyota RAV4 EV, Ford Focus BEV, BYD F3DM and even a couple of the electric cars launched in California in the late 1990s. (see the whole list here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Automobiles#Case_by_Case)

What is going on? Based on the still open discussions we found that a majority of the members of the WikiProject Automobile consider that all autos from a given generation should be consolidated in just one article, regardless of their powertrain, the exterior (glider) is more important (a gasoline engine is as good as a plug-in hybrid?). On the opposing side, a bunch of three to four editors are defending not very successfully to keep the separate articles for hybrids and other advanced technology cars. Skipping some of the Wikipedia technicalities, those opposing the mergers argued that those vehicles are notable enough to have their stand alone articles (some of them had been available for years) and these cars feature environmental performance content not found in the regular parent article. So far, the automotive guys have a majority vote so that is why the articles are disappearing. Reading through the long discussion is amazing, info related to the environmental and social impacts of automobiles is called green fancruft, Wikipedia jargon for information relating to a particular topic that is only of interest to other fans (see definition here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruft). And we thought that electric-drive powertrain cars and their relationship with mitigating greenhouse emissions and contributing to reduce dependence on imported oil were already mainstream. It could be that the glider is more important that what is under the hood, or that fueling from a pump or a plug is the same? Please, wake up, we are in the 21st century!

If you had any doubts of the anti-green bias, just check the brand new discussion that began yesterday here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Automobiles#Excessively_crufty_fuel_economy_tables

For the ongoing discussion about the Toyota Prius Plug-in see here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Automobiles#Toyota_Prius_Plug-in_Hybrid
the Civic Hybrid here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Automobiles#Honda_Civic_Hybrid and the Fusion hybrid here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Automobiles#Ford_Fusion_Hybrid

And most people think Wikipedia is controlled by liberals

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      Anyone who's done a substantial amount of editing on Wikipedia knows that the moderating staff and rogue editors (from editing societies) have a tendency to intervene as much as possible.

      I spent a long time building a system of templates that would allow fast repetition of complex charts using a very compact PHP code. I needed it for a data entry project I was working on, and the templates had future usability. Even after I demonstrated how they worked, and how much time and energy they saved, some of the vital templates were deleted b/c the mods "didn't get what I was trying to accomplish".

      I've made edits, only to have them re-edited 5 minutes after I've made them. I notice that the re-edit is actually factually incorrect so I return the passage to its original form in accordance with the source. Five minutes later my edit is undone, or re-edited without any consideration for the source document. I can fight on the talk page, or I can say "screw it" and get on with my life.

      Some of the people on Wikipedia are simply depraved individuals with too much time on their hands. There is no reason to turn this hybrid car controversy into a conspiracy. Anyone who's worked on Wikipedia knows that these kinds of things happen every day. The green scene are simply more willing to fight it out than the average editor.

        • 3 Years Ago
        Some friends and I recently launched CarsInDepth.com, the first 3D car site. I had to quickly learn about stereo photography and I'd say that for the most part stuff you find on YouTube may be more reliable than stuff you find on Wikipedia.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Come on folks...there are no such things as conspiracies...right???????????
      • 3 Years Ago
      All info pertaining to a particular MODEL of car should really go on a single page.

      Section headers exist for a reason. I often go to a wikipedia page and immediately scan the page's contents section to zero in on the specific information I'm interested in.

      If an optional drivetrain in the car is particularly noteworthy, or contains a novel piece of technology, then perhaps that drivetrain should have its own page.
      • 3 Years Ago
      As hybrids become the norm (if you include microhybrids/start-stop), the idea of having separate pages for hybrid versions of vehicles will become even more odd.

      Really, they should just combine the pages.

      But hey, it's wikipedia who knows what will happen, things are very haphazard there.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Polo, that sort of detail is what they're referring to as fancruft.

        Most people outside of the EV hardcore really aren't interested enough to include that level of detail.

        If more detail on the specifics of a particular hybrid drivetrain are wanted, then the drivetrain itself will get its own page, a la "Hybrid Synergy Drive":


        Wikipedia doesn't really need to have that level of detail on the page of every Toyota product that incorporates HSD; it becomes redundant and a waste of server space.

        • 3 Years Ago
        I agree, hybrids are becoming normal variants of standard autos. It's not like each drive train of every model gets a separate page (4WD vs 2WD, or diesel vs gasoline), so it makes sense to me to put all the variants of one model on the same page.

        Of course, the hybrid drive train itself could certainly get a dedicated page, similar to how IC engine families get their own.

        • 3 Years Ago
        "Merging ICE & hybrid / EV of the same car makes sense, unless the hybrid / EV variant is especially noteworthy on its own."

        ....and the differences inherent between an ICE and an EV aren't noteworthy enough?
        • 3 Years Ago
        "Polo, that sort of detail is what they're referring to as fancruft."

        Never heard of it and its nonsensical to suggest that only "fanboys" would be interested in what makes an electric car different from the ICE version. Most buyers who are remotely interested in purchasing one would be very interested in range, speed, handling, etc limitations or differences of the EV version.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Agreed. If it's just a Hybrid/EV version of an existing model, it should simply get a sub-heading on the vehicle page. Not a separate page.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I drive one of those microhybrids... actually any car I drive turns out to be a microhybrid, because I kill the engine at every opportunity, and the ignition key kills the headlights to save battery... ain't this what microhybriding about?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Mostly not particularly noteworthy.

        Is a "GMC Yukon XL Denali Hybrid" worth a separate page from the "GMC Yukon XL Denali", which would then be separate from the "GMC Yukon XL" and basic "GMC Yukon" pages?

        Or would those all be subheads under the "GMC Yukon" page?

        The only time you'd call out the "GMC Yukon XL Denali Hybrid" with a separate page is if it were the first (or only) such hybrid (or EV), and the tech or integration were somehow groundbreakingly noteworthy. In most cases, it's not more noteworthy a single page on GM BAS hybrid technology.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Merging ICE & hybrid / EV of the same car makes sense, unless the hybrid / EV variant is especially noteworthy on its own.

        I mean, we don't see noise about the RX400h hybrid being magically special enough to deserve it's own page, nor the older GM BAS mild hybrids - despite the likelihood those hybrid systems delivering more bang-for-the-buck than a full hybrid system.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wikipedia is pretty much controlled by a small group of editors who enforce pretty rigid ideological standards (which tilt predictably left on most controversial issues). Dealing with Wikipedia editors and administrators is reminiscent of the Star Chamber and of Stalinist show trials. I had my account blocked once, allegedly because (and this is a verbatim quote from the administrator who blocked me) "user hates Wikipedia". When I complied with all of their requests (which included a demand that I acknowledge that what I did was in violation of Wiki policies - see above re: Stalin), the administrators still wouldn't budge because of my "attitude". An administrator accused of a Godwin violation because I said that I wanted to post articles that helped restore people like Siegfried Marcus and Josef Ganz to their rightful roles in automotive history after they were literally written out of it by the Nazis.

      The editors and administrators there act so childishly that the place reminds me of nothing more than a junior high lunchroom, either that or something out of Lord Of The Flies or Animal House.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Wikipedia whiners like you would have a lot more credibility if you posted links to the diffs of the changes you attempted. No doubt a few cabalists have a petty dictatorial streak buttressed by those impenetrable WP:blahblah rules, but EVERY would-be author has an egotistical God complex that needs be ruthlessly cut down for the benefit of the encyclopedia.

        I've had very few problems with editing Wikipedia. My factual additions survive[*], people who've edited them have mostly done so in good faith, I've corresponded on user pages with people who've made changes I disagree with (if they don't reply I synthesize a better edit), and a couple of times I've just let it go. I believe I've avoided the angst the whiners suffer because my edits are mostly well-written (that damn God complex again), my Edit summaries are superlative, I separate edits from major additions, I cite everything using the templates, and if I do something controversial I mention it in the talk page and invite comment and improvement.

        I actually wish there was more interest and passionate debate around Wikipedia's EV and hybrid pages (besides the Prius and Volt). They need an improved automotive EV factbox, intelligent comparative tables would be useful, etc.

        etc., etc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions/skierpage
        • 3 Years Ago
        I've also experienced this. however useful wikipedia is on the surface, the behind the scenes is dreadful. it has attracted a certain fascist small minded group of people with total unquestioning faith in their own thoughtless fickle split second decisions.
        I tried to add a paragraph to a tv show about it being cancelled but it was deleted. I added it again each time increasing the quality of the sourcing and formatting. after adding it two times I was banned for 'edit warring'. I had added pertinent information, the other guy just deleted mindlessly yet I was banned without warning. the sourcing I offered was the show creator's own site so should be valid but it was rubber stamped as 'site to be avoided'. they seem to create these simple minded standards for what is a valid source and what is not and those rules are executed without consideration. I was so dismayed with the experience that I left it for a year. then I decided to appeal the ban thinking it was such a small dispute that surely an appeal should be heard after a year. the case was not even reviewed. because in the appeal I suggested that someone else had done something wrong it was dismissed without getting to know the elements of the case. I then refined the appeal but at each step they just looked at the first dismissal and assumed I was a troublemaker and dismissed it again. I pleaded with them to not dismiss it out of hand but actually look into the case before making a judgment but after 5 appeals I was blocked from making further appeals. 5 diferent admins dealth with the appeal, not one of them got to now the case.

        it's very curious that such an otherwise high minded concept as wikipedia has such a mindless fascism behind the scenes. it's very much like lord of the flies or vogons.

        the first admin who banned me even celebrated abuse of power on his own wikipage. they have these stars of accolade they give to themselves and he had a badge for most abusive admin and highest rate of bans..

        I used to donate to wikipedia but no more
        • 3 Years Ago
        I feel your pain
        • 3 Years Ago
        errata: Animal Farm, not Animal House (though the Wikipedia administrators probably think of themselves as the rebels of Delta house, they're closer to the entitled authoritarians of Alpha house)
      • 3 Years Ago
      I agree with the consolidation. As more electric powertrains hit the streets, if I want to learn about the Ford Focus EV, I'll go to the "Ford Focus" Wikipedia page and there will be separate sections for the Gasoline, Hybrid, and Electric versions, but everything is on the same page.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Not a good idea. There is such a thing as information overload. Again there are big differences between an ICE and an EV, and detailing all that on one consolidated page would make it long and hard to navigate, especially for the non-wiki rat. Someone doing a search for new EV model isn't going to want to comb through all that.
        • 3 Years Ago
        At first I did not agree with the idea of merging them, but yes it makes sense form the comments described but there is one problem:

        If you merge pages, you remove/omit like 80% of the old page just to add a paragraph in the main page. Where does all the other content goes? It's all gone? Why?
        For me this is the problem.

        And in the end I still think that more is better so I would like to keep the pages, maybe organize better or something.
        If people has much to say about one thing, there should be a page for it.
        It does not matter how bit is the difference between an Audi A2 1.4L or 1.2L version. If people has much to say about the 1.2L version, it makes it special, a page should be given for it. The same with hybrids/electrics.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Something I've noticed wearing the eyes of a journalist (I have contributed part-time to magazines for over a decade) is that the pro-hybrid Wikipedia editors have great difficulty understanding 'concise'. It should be said though this is a traditional problem with green advocacy, the ability to win or attempt to win, arguments by battering down opponents with over-detail. While I notice the article author above ridicules the concept of Wikipedia-cruft, by doing so they are ignoring one of the basic tenets of professional writing. Wikipedia appears to have created the concept of cruft out of a desire for conciseness of writing. You want to see examples of cruft working overboard, have a look at several of the cars which are popular amongst the Top Gear fans for their performance. These articles suffer just as much as the hybrid cars, although as a sweeping generalisation the hybrid cruft is much better written.

      One of the main reasons I've seen in the arguments is that much of the detail about hybrid powertrains is duplicated as this detail already exists. Unlike the majority of other engine options, hybrid powertrains have their own dedicated articles for each manufacturer.

      It should perhaps also be noted that obsolescence for hybrids is already in sight as fully electric cars proliferate. Perhaps this trend is merely future-proofing these articles as some vehicle nameplates, like Civic and Camry, are decades-old multi-generational marketing tags. Hybrid options will have to be considered against the history of these names in a Wikipedia article attempting to summarise the history of the industry’s most popular mid-size sedans.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Laughable as certain anime characters will always have their own page, if not entire pages dedicated to individual episodes. Simply comes down to the specific editors in charge of sections of Wikipedia exercising their dominance.

      Its a turf war. I want it my way and like hell if some miscreant with only a handful of page edits is going to get his way.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I agree there's no rhyme or reason to what is considered notable enough for its own Wikipedia page, but there are no "specific editors in charge of sections of Wikipedia". Anyone can watch pages and engage in debate and vote on Articles for Deletion; most people choose not to.

        It's unbelievable how well Wikipedia works. You've got free access to a 3,500,000 article dictionary! slaved over by thousands of unpaid volunteers writing a thousand new articles and making 1/2M edits every single day! Bitching about it brings to mind Louis C.K.'s "Everything's amazing and nobody's happy" routine, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk
      • 3 Years Ago
      Correction: It's not a Toyota Accord Hybrid, it's a HONDA Accord Hybrid
      • 3 Years Ago
      extra ruh roh
      • 3 Years Ago
      I guess I don't understand why the consolidation? Are they running out of storage space? Do they need to make room?
      As a compendium of knowledge, any consolidation looks more like a reduction of info. Is it really that hard to create links on the pages?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Not everything is a conspiracy, but companies are known to use wiki advance their own interests, which includes defaming or knocking down the competition. EVs are a disruptive technology to some big players. Deleting a separate page, chopping down the details, and smooshing whats left in between long descipts. of other variants seems petty, but its also what you'd do if you wanted to keep as many eyeballs from viewing that particular info. Delete. Dilute. Overload. Hallmark signs of wiki shills in action.
      • 3 Years Ago
      ruh roh!
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