Improved a Wikipedia article, annoyances with Wikipedia’s editing process

I finally got around to doing what I should have done much earlier, editing the Wikipedia article of Phryne. A year ago when I wrote my bachelor’s thesis for Research Seminar 3 I found out that the information given by Wikipedia on Phryne was not accurate. Ancient biographers tell us that during her trial she disrobed to convince the judges of the Areopagus of her innocence, who ten acquitted her of the charges. I even included Phryne’s case as the exception to the rule in my presentation of the preliminary results of my research. Everyone, including my teacher (not specialized in Classical Antiquity), listened with interest to my presentation, but gladly (or unfortunately, depending on my perspective) they were unaware of the arguments against the veracity of the event.

Fortunately as my research progressed I found the article ‘Hyperides and the Trial of Phryne’ by Craig Cooper. He argues that there is convincing certainty that the event was a fabrication by a biographer who was the source of Athenaeus’ information. He also notes that a lot of scientists do not question the authenticity of the disrobing scene, so I guess Wikipedia isn’t entirely to blame for this mistake or misrepresentation of information.

Finally I included the information on the authenticity of the event in the Wikipedia article today. The current revision can be found here and the version before my edits here. I’m still not happy with the article however, the other sections obviously need more work to improve them.

Besides that, one of my annoyances with Wikipedia is that footnotes create so much blank space between the line where the footnote is located and the preceding line. This is not obvious in the article of Phryne, but it is clearly visible in articles which contain a lot of footnotes, such as the article on Alexander the Great. I have only seen this strange behavior of footnotes on Wikipedia, and nowhere else. The blank space created by footnote seems to be identical by the blank spaced used to designate the end of a paragraph and the start of the new paragraph. So it is not only bad layout, but it is also confusing.

Another issue I have with Wikipedia is that it does not demand it’s editors to use a specific citation style. The only rules are that the an article uses the same citation style throughout the article and that the citation style used by the first editor should continue to be used. That’s not good, the Wikipedia community should agree on some standards. The standard could possibly depend on the subject of the article, for example it could be decided that all articles related to social science should use the APA style. However, as I study History I use and prefer a citation style employing footnotes because they aren’t as distracting as styles that don’t use them. Considering that this style is already used almost universally on Wikipedia, the rules should demand that every editor uses this style. All that remains to be done then is to fix the layout problems with blank space caused by footnotes and to specify how the bibliographic information in the footnode should be formatted.

What I’d also like to see improved is an English version of the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus of Naucratis, which is frequently referenced in the article of Phryne, in the Perseus Digital Library. Currently it only has a Greek version, so a translation of the Deipnosophistae from elsewhere on the web had to be used for the article.

2 thoughts on “Improved a Wikipedia article, annoyances with Wikipedia’s editing process”

  1. I am not sure what you mean by “…footnotes create so much blank space between the line where the footnote is located and the preceding line.”, but I do not see any extra space usin IE8 or FF4RC1. Could it be your settings or browser?

    Assuming you are referring to article references, FF4RC1 even creates four columns to break up the “footnotes”. I am not sure that Wikipedia should be calling what are, essentially, references rather than footnotes. Even their own tag implies they are references rather than page footnotes.

    If you were to read a wikipedia article on a digital reader, the “footnotes” don’t show up on each page as footnotes do, but rather, they will be listed at the end like references. Thus, and for other reasons, they should probably not be called footnotes by Wikipedia.

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