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Wikipedia was launched in 2001 and is now one of the most popular general reference source on the internet. It has “openly editable and viewable content” which can be a good thing when events or references are rapidly changing.

But it can have another use too, and that is of revising history to suit other purposes. While researching an article I was writing on Vancouver’s greenways (which I was proudly a team member of for many years) I found this surprising entry on Wikipedia:

The Vancouver Greenway Network is a collection of greenways across Vancouver, B.C that was planned and initiated by the City of Vancouver’s Vision-Party-led City Council in 2011 to reduce car use despite continuous citizen opposition.[1] Greenways are streets where pedestrians and cyclists are prioritized over motorized vehicles, through structures such as road closures and road diverters to prevent or limit motor vehicle traffic, widened sidewalk-promenades, narrowed road space, speed restrictions, bike lanes, raised sidewalks and speed bumps.[2] Vision Party City Councillors hope to create and maintain the trend of constructing new greenways to establish a network where, potentially, every citizen could access a city greenway within a 25-minute walking or a 10-minute cycling distance of their home rather than by car. The Vision Party hopes to achieve this goal through restricting motorist accessibility, use and parking.[1]

Of the three sentences in the Wikipedia quote above only the middle one, taken from an interview with the American Society of Landscape Architects is correct. And I know this because the second sentence is  a quote from me.

In fact it was the NPA dominated council with Mayor Gordon Campbell that set up the volunteer Urban Landscape Taskforce (chaired by Moura Quayle)  that brought forward the report to create greenways in 1994.

There is absolutely no truth to the statement  that this City of Vancouver Council policy that was developed in the 1990’s had any involvement from anyone in the municipal  Vision Party or those councillors or mayor. I have written about the remarkable history of how greenways started on Price Tags and you can review that article here.

But this type of political rewriting  is how history and information becomes compromised when factual policy information is revised for an untrue political history. If you have in the past participated in any significant policy work for the City of Vancouver, you may want to check on Wikipedia to ensure that the true information is there and has not been shuffled aside for political rewriting purposes.

 

d607206e-0227-41d3-bd09-c42fc97a2224-A15311Photo: VancouverArchives

Comments

  1. More generally, do not trust Wikipedia. Though the vast majority of original content was contributed in drive-by edits by occasional users (many of them likely experts in their fields), by all accounts it is now dominated by cliques of editors whose priority is territorial control, not quality or accuracy. Then there are recent revelations about a whole industry dedicated to gaming the content. I have encountered multiple manipulations, blantant and subtle. I don’t think it’s even worth trying to fix as an ordinary user. Editors and manipulators are too entrenched. Reportedly, many won’t allow even insignificant edits unless you butter them up in the discussion page first.

    On top of this, the quality of writing has degraded. I think the problem is an editorial fetish for completeness and consistency. It leads to minor oddness, like useless and distracting links to articles on ordinary words. (If I’m reading about the United States, I don’t need a link to the article on what a country is.) More seriously, many articles on technical topics have become incomprehensible to anyone who does not already understand the material.

    People believe that Wikipedia is ok for topics that aren’t controversial. I think that the opposite is true. One takes an article on a controversial topic with a grain of salt. The danger isn’t bias when you expect it: it’s reading seemingly uncontroversial material and ending up believing things that ain’t so.

    A decade ago, in my MA thesis, I wrote with enthusiasm about Wikipedia. So far as I am concerned, it has failed. The Web is a big place. Whatever Wikipedia has to say, there’s almost always a better source elsewhere.

  2. Thank you for setting the record straight, Sandy. I certainly hope the city takes notice and posts a caution about the manipulations of history through Wikipedia on its more permanent web page.

    Moura Quayle and her UBC colleague Doug Paterson certainly left their mark, and the Urban Landscape Taskforce was one of their larger nuggets. The Taskforce report and subsequent talks by Moura were the first occasions where I learned that 30% of Vancouver’s land area is consumed by public roads. That has always stuck with me. It’s probably over 40% in some outlying communities. When you move on in the same vein to zoning and geographical and environmental constraints, it becomes apparent that we have one big mudder of a land use management challenge facing us.

    Greenways were the most obvious product of the Taskforce initiative, but a new way of looking at the landscape in terms of its encompassing urbanism was in some respects the more important byproduct.

  3. wikipedia lies and removes people of colour and women and has many racists sad face (sad because it does have some decent content as others have noted though much of it is now overwhelmed by bad actors)

  4. There is a history button at top of the
    https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vancouver_Greenway_Network&action=history
    with a
    Compare Revisions button on that page
    https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vancouver_Greenway_Network&type=revision&diff=890206349&oldid=890206301

    Anyways, the wise reader uses Wiki to find
    Sources
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vancouver_Greenway_Network#Sources

    And good articles are in several languages (other than English-Canadian) for a better perspective.

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