19.1.10

When Wikipedia goes wrong

I love Wikipedia. I consult it nearly every day, whether it's to find out technical info for my books or just look up the episode guides for Heroes or Come dine with me. I love how it's democratic - that anyone can write or edit an entry. But sometimes pages get deleted, and that can be infuriating. Here is a case in point. A friend sent me an auction listing for cartoon illustrator Paul Sample. He's a big hero of mine, and I own a piece of his artwork, published originally in the Sunday Times. I wrote to him via the newspaper and he sold it me for a fiver! It's a beautiful example of pen and ink artwork, in the R Crumb style. As well as his editorial work, you may well remember Sample's book covers for Tom Sharpe paperbacks and ads for the Post Office, full of detail. And of course his long-running biker strip Ogri (which does still have a Wikipedia page). Anyway, I wondered why he was selling his archive. Was he hard up? - was he even dead, heaven forbid. So I consulted Wikipedia (there is also an ice hockey player with the same name), only to find that his entry had been deleted only last year by someone called Cirt! What the... This can happen, it has happened to my friends and it nearly happened to my entry. It's not that they're running short of space, the reason is nearly always that the person is 'not notable enough'. And who makes these judgements? Mainly people over in North America who have probably never heard of said people, and will only take citations from web-based sources. In other words, you don't exist unless you've been mentioned many times on the web. If you are a rock musician, but have only been in one 'notable' band, you will be deleted and 'merged' into the band's entry! You can see the flaws in that argument. Anyway, rant over for now. I have been updating the Ogri page in the hope that Paul's page might be resurrected one day. Sample isn't dead, but semi-retired like me, and I found out from the auction house, Halls of Shrewsbury, that: 'All my work has been in folders tucked away in cupboards for years', said Mr Sample, 62, who has recently moved to Whitchurch after living in North Shropshire for 30 years. 'I don't look at the work, so I have decided to give someone else the pleasure.' There's also an article in the Daily Telegraph about it. Paul Sample deserves much more recognition, as do many other jobbing 'commercial' artists.
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