On Sunday, I was contacted by Kevin Murray, one of the free encyclopedia's volunteer administrators, who informed me that someone had posted an article about me but that it was being considered for deletion.
I was a little taken aback. After all, to be told, out of the blue, that someone has created a Wikipedia article about you, well, that's pretty cool. To be told at the same time that others instantly questioned whether you are worthy of an article, well, that's another thing altogether. After all, I didn't ask for this.
I went and looked at the entry and discovered that there was a considerable amount of momentum for deleting it. (Since writing this reporter's notebook, Wikipedia administrators have decided to keep the entry.)
This was very interesting. It's not often that you have the chance to peer in on a conversation in which a bunch of people you've never met discuss and, let's be honest, judge you.
The content of the original article--my professional history, basically--was based on information culled from an online resume I posted a couple of years ago when I was a freelance journalist.
Wikipedia is an open, online encyclopedia that allows anyone to create or edit articles about anything they choose. And anyone can weigh in on whether an article should be kept or deleted. But only an administrator can perform a deletion, if that is the consensus.
As for why the article had been posted now, I'm not sure--though it's likely because of my role in the recent of digital-land baroness Anshe Chung. I haven't reached the writer to ask his rationale.Not notable enough?
The article was posted at 9:10 a.m. on January 7. At 9:36 a.m., a Wikipedia administrator named Wickethewok flagged it for deletion, suggesting that I was not notable enough, under generally accepted Wikipedia standards "WP:BIO," to warrant an entry.
"The person has been the primary subject of multiple nontrivial published works whose source is independent of the person," seemed to be the operational guideline that was being discussed in reference to my article.
"It appears to be about some author who does not meet WP:BIO," Wickethewok wrote of my entry. "However, the article discusses itself and how it's referenced by other articles. Only source is the subject's resume. Delete as failing WP:BIO."
This was just a recommendation, I realized.
Murray said one major problem with the original article was that none of the content was verified. Because the source material was my online resume, people like Wickethewok questioned the veracity of my credentials.
But it was also clear, in reading the thread of discussion about whether to keep the article, that several administrators simply didn't think my history as a journalist merited inclusion.
Still, the original author weighed in, referencing one standard that is sometimes used to justify the entry.
"This individual appears to meet the professor test, in that he is more well known and more published than an average college professor," wrote Jeff G, the article's author. "'Daniel Terdiman' gets about 105,000 results on Google...about 126,000 results on Yahoo."
Wickethewok wasn't convinced.
"The 'professor test'...does not apply to this guy, as his main publications are news articles, quite different from academic publications," Wickethewok argued. "I disagree with your notion that he's more notable than an average college professor. There are no independent articles on him."
I decided to take a step back and look at who else among the journalists I know has personal Wikipedia entries. And of course, while CNET News.com is a reasonably well-known publication, it is only mentioned in Wikipedia as part of the larger entry on CNET Networks, the site's publisher.
Among my News.com colleagues, only fellow reporters Declan McCullagh and Ina Fried have their own articles. And both are much better known than I am.
A few other CNET writers, from our CNET.com department, do have articles. Among them are Molly Wood, Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. But all three are part of the company's television operations and are therefore personally in the public eye.
So, in all fairness, the question of why Jeff G. wrote an article about me is a valid one. I have written for a number of prominent publications beyond CNET News.com. And I am one of the more prolific writers about subjects like virtual worlds, Burning Man and even Wikipedia. But, as Wickethewok pointed out, there has been little written in the mainstream media about me, and my tens of thousands of Google and Yahoo hits stem from the fact that I write a lot of articles.
The Wikipedia entry does begin with the fact that I am an "award-winning journalist." But in truth, it was an award I shared with several colleagues and was given by a local branch of the Society of Professional Journalists. It was hardly a Pulitzer.Why now?
I asked a friend, Business 2.0 magazine senior editor Chris Taylor, about his Wikipedia entry, which was created in 2005 when he wrote about Wikipedia for Time magazine.
"It didn't take long to realize why the entry had been made--and the timing, right after my authorship of the , made sense," Taylor said. "So after the initial feelings of flattery and suspicion, I was like, Oh, OK, this is my 'reward' from the Wiki geeks. I wrote about their baby, so I've arrived."
Murray, meanwhile, was asking for my help in verifying much of the information that was in the original version of my article. So, over two days, I spent hours tracking down links to stories, confirming questions and otherwise assisting my Wikipedia guardian angel.
It was weird, because it seemed like the article might soon disappear into a puff of ones and zeroes, and that the work would therefore be wasted.
But Murray was standing up for me in the administrators' delete-or-not thread, arguing that I am, in fact, notable for my work and my place among journalists covering tech culture.
"This subject has won an award for his journalism, is a recognized expert who is invited to speak at high-tech conferences, moderates panels," he wrote, "and has developed a second source of notability as an author and expert on the Burning Man festival."
But another, clearly well-meaning, administrator, hedged.
"Journalists are governed by the base WP:BIO, which requires, roughly, multiple independent coverage of the person's work," Serpent's Choice wrote January 8. "Terdiman is a prolific journalist and seems very likely to be the kind of person who will eventually meet the standards but doesn't yet."
Thank you, Serpent's Choice. I think.
On Wednesday, I was told that the final decision on whether to keep the article would likely come in a day or two. Things were looking good. A couple more administrators posted their support for the article. And on Thursday morning, the consensus was to keep it up.
I was prepared, though, to live up to Serpent's Choice's faith in me.