William Beutler on Wikipedia

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

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on May 3, 2009 at 11:52 am by William Beutler

I’m starting a new occasional series of posts here today — showing what the very first version of different Wikipedia articles looked like, one or two or a few at a time. After all, even the best had to begin somewhere, and it’s highly unlikely that they were delivered to Wikipedia as a fully formed article. This is partly because standards have improved over the years, but also just because of the nature of the wiki — most add just a little at a time, but over time those little bits and pieces turn into a complete article.

The first example is about Radiohead, the favorite rock band of yours truly since The Bends in 1995. The article today is ranked among Wikipedia’s best, and earlier this year was a Featured article, meaning featured on Wikipedia’s main page. But it wasn’t always so. Without further ado, here is the very first version of the Radiohead Wikipedia article from February 7, 2002:

Radiohead, British rock band.

Shot to critical acclaim with their third album, OK Computer, one of the best albums of the late nineties.

Others include:

* Pablo Honey
* The Bends
* OK Computer
* Kid A
* Amnesiac
* I Might Be Wrong (Live recordings)

Other decent artists include PJ Harvey, U2, Nirvana, and more recently, Ryan Adams.

Seriously, Ryan Adams? (Note: The original title for this post was I Might Be Wrong.) The notion that Nirvana, U2 or Radiohead may only be “decent” artists is amusing, too.

You may have also noticed that this version of the article would absolutely violate Wikipedia’s NPOV guideline, which proscribes editors from injecting their own opinions into Wikipedia articles, as it stands today. But it would also have run afoul of the much simpler guideline as it existed then, under the principal authorship of Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger and The Cunctator, an editor who is one of Wikipedia’s most veteran.

I undoubtedly agree that OK computer is one of the best albums of the late 1990s, and so this is present in the article as attributed to the music critics who said so, and in the section header which currently reads:

OK Computer, fame and critical acclaim (1996–1998)

That works for me.