XPLANE deleted from Wikipedia

About a week ago Dave Gray, founder of XPLANE, put up a blog post mentioning that the XPLANE record had been marked for deletion.

Apparently it wasn’t considered a “notable company” by a high school student named Veinor and was nominated for deletion.

Dave, and many others provided ample evidence of XPlane’s validity as a notable company in the Visual Design & Communication space. Dave readily admits that their initial contribution was most notable during the first Internet “bubble” – something Venoir, through no fault of his own, just wasn’t at a point in his life where he’d have any exposure to it’s impact.

The catch-22 in this debate was that many people who contributed support or evidence of XPLANE’s notability were immediately discounted because we haven’t obsessively edited reams of Wikipedia entries in the past. “Meat puppets” was how one commenter referred to us in a comment on Dave’s blog. The entry was labeled as advertising, even though Dave had no hand in writing it.

Despite the ample evidence to show XPLANE’s recognition in many name brand publications of XPLANE’s contribution and many people from within the industry showing support it was summarily deleted, and the page is now redirected towards the X-Plane, the first civilian space ship.

Needless to say I doubt the validity of Wikipedia even more now. I was already skeptical and wary of it based on the seemingly more and more frequent stories of mis-information being presented there.

A big concern is time distances us from the relevance or impact of an event in history. At an extreme example, even my generation has very little concept of the actual scale and impact of World War I or II. Yes we know it was a big battle but it wasn’t until I sat with my wife’s grandfather, who piloted Lancasters in the war, that I really started to get a sense of just how different that war was from anything we see today, and hopefully will ever see in the future.

Stories of hundreds of bombers flying in three vertical tiers in pitch blackness, trying to guess where the other guys around you were and then, once it was time to drop your payload praying there wasn’t someone else directly above you. Even hearing it directly from him I doubt it chilled me even to a tenth of what he felt night in and night out while he was actually there.

I’ll tell my son his great-grandfather’s stories, and hope he’ll tell his kids and so on, but like dubbing a Betamax tape (linked to Wikipedia in case anyone missed those too) each generation is going to degrade the quality of the story just a bit until it’s just a blurry image of its former self.

What then? Hopefully WWII is a powerful enough period in history that it’s relevance or importance in the world will never be questioned. I’m not trying to liken Xplane in any way to WWII but what happens along the way to all those smaller moments or contributions in history whose perceived importance will diminish much faster.

We’re living in an increasingly “iterative” society – with the the digital era very little is permanent anymore. In the physical realm of books etc. entries could come and go but there was always a physical record of it in the previous editions etc. Now though it’s been deleted, permanently. There’s no past record of it, as far as Wikipedia is concerned XPLANE doesn’t exist, never has.

XPLANE’s deletion isn’t the end of the world – even Dave himself said “certainly, XPLANE does not live or die based on whether Wikipedia thinks it’s important.” What I am concerned about is what else is being lost as people who have no experience with a topic mark it for deletion. Had it not been for Dave’s post many of us probably wouldn’t have realized it was nominated – monitoring Wikipedia isn’t anywhere on my to-do list.

How many other wikis silently get deleted everyday just because some kid looks at the entry and says “Hmm, never heard of it.”?

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