Wednesday, November 8

I'm not sure I care too deeply, and it sure as hell ain't all that surprising, but I think I just caught the Bill Ritter (as of yesterday, Colorado's governor-elect) campaign (or an earnest supporter) gaming Wikipedia.

Exhibit A, a version of the Bill Ritter article with some text I killed, under Missionary work:

In 1987, Bill was a fifth-year prosecutor working as an assistant district attorney in Denver. His career was on the rise, but he and Jeannie decided to make a major change. They closed up their house and moved to the African nation of Zambia, where they managed a food distribution and nutrition center.

As lay missionaries with the Catholic Church, they trucked 60 tons of food a month from the Zambian capital 400 miles to their depot in Mongu. They then distributed the food deep into the drought-stricken sub-Saharan bush. Bill and Jeannie also added poultry and fishery programs. They taught women the importance of good nutrition and food preparation for their families. And in a country ravaged by AIDS, malaria, leprosy and chronic malnourishment, Bill and Jeannie taught basic health care. Nearly 35 percent of children younger than 5 suffered from chronic malnourishment.

Bill and Jeannie's young son, August, became fast friends with the local children. Their second son, Abe, was born in Africa. The Zambians referred to Bill as Bo Ritta. Bo means Mr., and in Silozi, a form of Bantu, words dont end in consonants so Ritter became Ritta.

In Africa, I learned that leadership is about listening to people, understanding their struggles, and walking with them on the path to a better tomorrow. We were forever inspired by the hope and spirit of the people of Africa, even in the face of such poverty and despair. The Ritters returned to Denver from Zambia in 1990. Three years later, then-Gov. Roy Romer appointed Ritter as Denvers district attorney, citing Ritters service in Africa as an important part of the decision.

Ritter has recently unveiled a new page on his website showcasing his three-year tour in Africa [4].

Exhibit B, the meat of that page on his website showcasing etc.:

In 1987, Bill and Jeannie Ritter packed up their
1-year-old son and left Denver for Zambia, Africa.
For the next three years, they ran a food
distribution and nutrition center as lay
missionaries for the Catholic Church.

It's one of the most inspiring pieces of
Bill's background.

They trucked 60 tons of food a month 400
miles from the capital city to their depot
in Mongu. They then distributed the food
deep into the bush. Bill and Jeannie also
added poultry and fishery programs. They
taught women the importance of good nutrition
and food preparation for their families. And in
a country ravaged not just by drought, but also by AIDS,
malaria, leprosy and chronic malnourishment, Bill and
Jeannie taught basic health care.

Their young son, August, became fast friends with the local
children. Bill and Jeannie's second son, Abe, was born in Africa.

In Africa, Bill says, he learned that leadership is about listening to
people, understanding their struggles, and walking with them on the
path to a better tomorrow.

"We were forever inspired by the hope and spirit of the people of
Africa," Bill says, "even in the face of such poverty and despair."

(Notice the ragged linebreaks on the righthand side of that quote? That's because on the original page, the line-lengths are carefully tweaked to wrap around the edge of a graphic of Africa. Somewhere, Tim Berners-Lee is weeping.)

If you were to guess that the rest of the Bill Ritter article is more or less lifted from the same campaign site, well, a cursory look at the biography page wouldn't do much to dispel your embittered cynicism.

I kept meaning to quit paying any further attention to this, after adding an NPOV tag and a quick line on the talk page about the article sounding like campaign copy, but then Editor19841 deleted said tag with the line No POV here; if there is, cite.

Well, ok.

And then there is this:

I'm really proud of how far this article has come, and consider it to be one of Wikipedia's best. When I started my work on the page, it contained only one sentence, but with some hard work and some research, we as editors have accomplished a lot by working together. I just wanted to thank everybody involved in the creation and forming of this great article for all your work. I think that after a good picture of Ritter is added to this article (hopefully next to "Contents"), I'm thinking of nominating the article to become a feature for Wikipedia. If any of you agree with me, please say so. I'm currently looking at possible pictures from Ritter's campaign site to add to the article, and if anyone has a suggestion... Editor19841 00:19, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

So the question I have is, is this just someone logrolling shilling for a politician they approve of and being fairly bad at covering their bias / lifting the text? A link following text to the page the text was copied & pasted from sort of points that direction. Is it an agent of the campaign organization being really stupid about covering their tracks and/or lazy about reusing the text? I'd buy either explanation, but I sure do get a whiff of techno-folksie bullshit from that we as editors have accomplished a lot by working together paragraph.