The unsung heroes protecting Wikipedia from disgruntled Bachelor fans
By Ramraajh Sharvendiran
On March 6, fans of The Bachelor exploded onto this season's star, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Wikipedia page in search of revenge.
During the show's last episode of season 17, the featured bachelor, a race car driver, changed his mind on a seemingly final decision.
Fans took their outrage over his flippancy to social media, but when that wasn't enough, they lashed out at the internet's easily editable encyclopedia.
"He is worse at being the bachelor than he was at being a race car driver. America hates him," one vandal added to the page.
Online editors of the site attempted to correct the false edits on the page, but they needed greater powers to deal with the onslaught of misinformation and inappropriate additions.
"I semi-protected the article, and that means that only that registered accounts that are more than four days old and have made at least ten edits … can edit the article," says Wikipedia administrator Cullen328, also known as Jim Heaphy.
Admins are like editors but with more power to control individual pages.Heaphy is of the many volunteers who work to create and maintain credible content on the encyclopedia.
Semi-protections on Wikipedia can freeze the page for a flexible length of time, ideally until the trolls lose interest. In this case, Heaphy's freeze lasted for ten days and the vandals never returned.
If somebody is in the news, and things are controversial, their Wikipedia page is going to get vandalized.- Jim Heaphy
Though the intensity of the attack on Luyendyk Jr.'s page was a bit of surprise, this isn't completely out of the ordinary, says Heaphy.
"You know, this stuff happens all the time. If somebody is in the news, and things are controversial, their Wikipedia page is going to get vandalized."
By day Heaphy is a contractor specializing in countertop restoration. Impressed with the encyclopedia, Heaphy first started contributing to fill in information about artists and mountaineers that interested him.
Trolls and vandals on Wikipedia are a regular occurrence. Heaphy says it comes from the users' anonymity.
"When people have anonymity, sometimes it seems like, at least for some people, the worst aspects of their personality come out and they behave in pretty childish ways," he says.
Adding to knowledge
For Heaphy, his volunteer work comes from a desire to contribute to a pool of knowledge that can potential endure the test of time.
He's had his work plagiarized by an art gallery, received death threats for edits he's made, and collaborated with poets on their personal pages, but of the hundreds of pieces he's worked on, one stands out to him.
"I made an expansion of the article about Salade niçoise, a classic salad from southern France," he says.
"And I'm 100 per cent confident that, that Wikipedia article is the best and most comprehensive discussion of the subject available in the English language."