Donnerstag, 29. September 2011

A story about a vulva picture - an open letter to Sue Gardner

Dear Sue Gardner,

please handle this as a response on your post named "On editorial judgment, and empathy" and as an addition to Dirk's "Sorry, Sue Gardner, but the image filter question exactly asks, who is in charge" and Jan's signpost topic "The global mission, the image filter and the "German question""

Who am I?

First let me introduce myself: I am Achim Raschka and I am one - if in quantity not the main - main authors of the German article Vulva. In this case I am one of those you adress with the "who are acting like provocateurs and agitators" that "need to be stopped". People like me you describe as "young well educated men in Europe". O.k. - maybe you call a man (me) around 40 years a young man and also maybe you think, a full-time employed and married father of four little children - a fifth on the way - spends hours of his rare time for an article on a sexual object just to agitate? What I really think is that it doesn't matter to you who I am and who all those other authors in the German community are that you adress in your post. So let me add some more informations on me only as a chance to learn who this vulva man should be: I am author in the German wikipedia since 2003 and have done about 70.000 edits (what is your score?), about 100 articles mainly written by me are selected as good or featured articles in these years. In January this year I was invited to San Francisco by your team to discuss about article quality and ways to adapt the ambassador programme to Germany, a bit later I was elected to be member of the board of the German chapter.

About the Vulva
In your post you claimed the "close-up photograph of an open vagina" (sorry to teach: it was an open vulva, no vagina which is an internal organ - article mainly written by me) as one of the main reasons to discuss about "handling controversial imagery."

So, as the author of this article, I was never asked by you about my (and our) reasons why this picture was shown on the main page, and also, the WMF never asked anyone of the German authors community, why they didn't choose to withdraw this picture after discussion. But although you never asked, I would like to tell you the vulva story:

The Vulva is one of the most viewed articles in the German Wikipedia and it was one of the most choosen topics as well before I decided to work on this article. Before I started this work it looked like this - an article on a main topic in a terrible condition. I - a biologist - worked mainly together with two gynecologists and a veterinarian and anatomist as well as a midwife I know from the birth of one of my children as an external advisor, all best known for their quality articles in the German Wikipedia, to push up this article from a volume of about 13 kB to the recent article with a volume of about 70 kB. Every single sentence, every chapter and even every picture was discussed in the editor's team and on the discussion page in terms of quality for the article and the described subject - every single picture was chosen for it's value for this article as this should be in Wikipedia!

After this work the article was elected to be a featured article in the German Wikipedia and was nominated by me for a presentation on the main page - together with the picture you call "controversial" (Why? It shows a natural, hairy vulva like my wife has one and even you have one!). The only reason for this nomination was to show that even in topics like this we are able to produce featured work and to show the product of a high concentrated team of experts from biology and medicine - no more and no less. That's all, that's the vulva story.

What a filter will effect
To go a bit further, I try to line out, what will be the effect of a filter to content like this: With the opportunity to filter content - text or pictures - chosen by others than the authors, you will hand over the discussion on content to users who never discussed any part of the content of the chosen articles. Why should a team of experts discuss any content of an article if it doesn't matter what they decide - why should we choose the best and most valuable content for Wikipedia if anywhere in commons and even at the reader's side our decision doesn't matter. Why should we write articles and work on them if even the WMF and their board don't appreciate this volunteer's work?

Maybe it doesn't matter to you if all those guys like me should withdraw their work in the German Wikipedia or even think and talk about a fork - maybe there will be a next generation of editors for this project and maybe we cannot withdraw because of addiction to this wonderful project - even maybe this will become reality I predict there will be a real big gap in trust between the volunteers in the German Wikipedia on the one hand and the Wikimedia Foundation and even the English project on the other hand, if you decide to overrule and act against the wishes of nearly the whole German Wikipedia community. And to cite Pavel Richter for a closing word: "The filter tries to solve a social problem by technical means – not a good idea."

Kind regards,
Achim Raschka

Image:Martina Nolte, CC-by-sa 3.0

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