The Mary Parker Follett Network

Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. - MPF

Follett's Wikipedia article - can we make it better?

I recently visited the Wikipedia article on Follett - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Parker_Follett - and I'm not sure that it really captures the essence and full dimensionality of Follett. I also think the writing quality could be significantly improved. (I was also amazed to see a second photo of Follett there, which I didn't know existed!).

In case you're not familiar with Wikipedia, anyone can get a Wikipedia account and edit the text of an article. I think there's a way to "lock in" one particular version, but I'm not sure how that works. In any event, it might be worded a certain way one week, then someone who thinks they are improving it can edit large amounts of text. You can look into the editing history right there on the site, although it's not the easiest process to trace every change.

I think that wordsmithing an article that reflects the consensus of, say, the 500+ members of this group would be very difficult. But perhaps we can find a way to agree on what the article should emphasize (and there is no limit to how much detail can be added to round out the picture), that could guide some major edits. Then we can focus on things like style, grammar and flow.

What do you think? Take a look at the article and comment here!

Best regards,

Matthew

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I'm an admirer (not a scholar) of Follett. However, I've been editing Wikipedia articles for well over a decade, supplying reliable source citations, text, a few graphics, and ripping out unreliable sourcing, problematic text and copyright violations. I've also taken part in the discussions of points of adjudication -- article deletion nominations, debates over the reliability of sources and objectivity of wording, etc.

Before I comment on this suggestion, let me make my own: take a tour at Wikipedia process, policies and guidelines,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Policies_and_guidelines

and determine for yourself the degree to which Wikipedia itself (as an ongoing collaboration) could be an independently-evolved model for what Follett advocated, at least for encyclopedias.

"not sure that it really captures the essence and full dimensionality of Follett" -- it probably doesn't, but one of the core guidelines of Wikipedia is to contribute what they call "an encyclopedic style."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:What_Wikipedia_is_not#Encyc...

For some writers, full justice can't be done short of including pretty much their entire work in the text of an article. I don't think that's true of Follett but it does open the question of what to include. Consider fleshing out the text of Wikipedia articles about individual works of hers, to get more essence and dimensionality -- creating new articles if necessary (it's pretty easy.)

"I think there's a way to "lock in" one particular version, but I'm not sure how that works."

This is done only in cases where editors (which can be anybody, including people with anonymous accounts) are warring over the text. Administrators step in and set various levels of locks, from time-limited locks to locks that can only be released when the conflict has been resolved in some way, including (if necessary) barring some from editing if they prove intransigent or in violation of various policies and guidelines, and show no willingness to change their behavior.

There is no such thing as a "final" version of a Wikipedia article. No set of editors can monopolize editing either. The result is sometimes unsatisfactory to experts. I once nominated an article for deletion because the main author of the article was clearly self-aggrandizing, while the topic fell short of what experts would consider "notable." It was kept because the administrator making the decision after consulting the debate thread was a student of German law, not a mathematician in the field of computability theory. On that discussion thread, a top-drawer expert weighed in (on my side), but his weight wasn't seen as overwhelmingly decisive. Basically, the article was deemed compliant with guidelines for notability even though the very minor noting of it in the journal literature was mostly damning-with-faint-praise (at best), narcissistic knee-jerk contrarianism on the part of a few back-benchers in the field, and in one case, just the thinly-veiled sarcasm of one reviewer (sarcasm that the primary author of the Wikipedia article was too tone-deaf to detect).

"it might be worded a certain way one week, then someone who thinks they are improving it can edit large amounts of text"

Yes, but such changes can be reverted with a click, if somebody thinks the change is inappropriate. This sometimes leads to edit warring, which sometimes becomes comical.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Lamest_edit_wars

"there is no limit to how much detail can be added to round out the picture"

Yes and no. For example, a common reason for trimming or deleting is a general agreement among reasonable editors about Undue Weight:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Undue_weight

There are also guidelines about length and frequency of quotes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Quotations#Overuse

"Take a look at the article and comment here!"

Or just Be Bold

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Be_bold

and start editing it! In general, Wikipedia process looks askance at discussion of changes to articles outside Wikipedia itself. The place to do it in this case is the Talk page for this biography article, reachable through the "Talk" link at the top of the page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Mary_Parker_Follett

I hope this helps.


P.S. on a few points

While I've suggested a fleshing out based in part on adding articles of notable works by Follett, there are other subcategories. These should be approached with care, however -- you may find them nominated for inclusion in the main article (in abbreviated form) or even nominated for deletion. For example, an article on how Follett drew inspiration from businessmen might make the cut, despite a dearth of secondary and tertiary sources cited (and even considering that Follett didn't write at very great length on this herself), by noting that Peter Drucker was inspired by her (and may have learned how to write well in English by modeling her style.) But if a topic isn't independently noted in a few reliable secondary sources at least (and ideally one tertiary source) you could run into trouble. Nominations for deletions and mergers are common on Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Notability

Citations: Wikipedia is fairly tolerant about citing sources -- even a bare web link can pass if it links to substantiating material from a reliable source. Some don't trouble themselves with mastery. I think Follett scholars are made of sterner stuff, but may draw back at Wikipedia Citation Formats. I'll admit that this never quite became second nature to me even adding and fixing a great many citations, but then again, I never used the refToolbar, or any other form-based tool for formatting citations.

Here's a decent place to start.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Referencing_for_beginners




Michael Turner, thank you. In my view it is not worth the effort because of the crowd sourcing. There are published encyclopedia entries on Follett in a variety of disciplines, including one I wrote with Jeannine Love for public administration. Hopefully, people will see the terrible writing on this entry and disregard it!

Wikipedia is regarded with some disdain by many academics. Having edited for so long, I agree that it shouldn't be cited in most formal academic publications. That said, Wikipedia is often an excellent starting point for exploring a new topic, and especially if it's at least compliant with basic guidelines on neutrality of point of view

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view

and is well-supported with citations containing links to better sources. The writing in this article is somewhat sophomoric, but we were all sophomores once, and telling people to ignore it, when it's so accessible, could leave an impression of the kind of academic snobbery that I believe Parker herself bemoaned. If you believe that this website is a better place to be, for those who get interested in Parker from the Wikipedia article, notice that it's the first entry in the External Links section.

I've noticed that the sources aren't as well-linked as they could be. Often, before editing any of the text of an article, I go through the sources -- citations and bibliography -- and use Google Scholar to find instances of text online, to add to the citations. Now, let me ask you this: if I did that, would you still maintain that it wasn't worth the effort? If I recruited others to help, would you still say, "That's crowdsourcing, therefore ipso facto pointless and forgettable?"

I'm stuck in St-Louis, France, under lockdown, and can't get back to my desk in Tokyo. Places with power, WiFi and a desk are in short supply here. And my time online is better spent on getting my business through this crisis, as well as the humanitarian relief efforts that I pursue in the time left over. So here's a start:

In my not-entirely-uninformed opinion, progress could be made by going through the article history, looking at who has made past edits, ignoring those who've been reproved for misbehavior in the past, and asking for help of those who've contributed positively, especially to the references.

My own start, even though I have little enough time these days:

Fixing a title and a link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mary_Parker_Follett&...

Writing a past editor who'd restored a citation:

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User_talk:WQUlrich&diff=953840166&oldid=948211816




Michael, you misunderstand my brief reply above.

Because of the amount of time and effort it takes to manage a wiki entry and protect it against poor or even wrong contributions and editing, I do not believe it is worth the effort as volunteers. Secondarily, the wikipedia procedures are phenomenally complex and time-consuming. If you are willing to take that on, best wishes!

I am a pracademic and fully community-engaged scholar in a second career that started at age 46. I often use wikipedia in the exact way you describe, and am a financial contributor to the organization. I am no "ivory tower" snob and throwing ugly assertions like that at people you don't know is (1) an enormous assumption and (2) incredibly rude and "un-Follettian."

"In my view it is not worth the effort because of the crowd sourcing."

Without context, I read that as "crowd sourcing is a waste of time." If that was true, Wikipedia would be a pile of trash articles, rather than the imperfect but useful resource it clearly is.

"Because of the amount of time and effort it takes to manage a wiki entry and protect it against poor or even wrong contributions and editing, I do not believe it is worth the effort as volunteers."

This is a problem mainly for articles on high-profile topics with a dash or two controversy on the topic. I think we can all agree that Follet isn't nearly high-profile enough, and there's much in her perspective that's no more controversial than your average Harvard Business Review article about collaboration. Indeed, if HBR grows out of Drucker as much as anybody, and Drucker was a fan of Follett, it seems unlikely that edit wars or semiliterate contributions would ever be a problem. You want a war zone? Try Paul Krugman's biography on Wikipedia! (Still nursing those wounds, but also got commendations for my efforts to balance it and correct it.)

"Hopefully, people will see the terrible writing on this entry and disregard it!"

In context, I read that as "disregard the Wikipedia article." The Wikipedian response is "will improve it." That context included you promoting your own encyclopedia article, so I doubt I read you wrong.

I'd love a perfect Follet bio on Wikipedia, but the perfect is the enemy of the good. I'm glad you're a donor, and a user, but that doesn't make you an expert on what Wikipedia, as an ongoing process of never-reached perfection, actually is. If it's incredibly rude of me to say so, I have to wonder: what would Follett herself think of what I wrote in my response to you? 

"What the hard-shelled conservative always forgets is that what he really admires in the past is those very moments when men have strongly and rudely broken with tradition."

What's proposed here is change in how Mary Follet Parker's work is promoted. I'm already being accused of rudeness. If that's a necessary (if insufficient) condition, I also have strengths to bring to the project: I know a fair amount about how Wikipedia really works, what's flowing and roiling beneath a surface that few probe, and how change moves through its channels. Well, often enough, it moves rudely. That's inevitable, which is one reading of the word "necessary", after all. In a perfect world, "necessary" wouldn't have that connotation. Out of 500 members here, maybe there are a few who can stomach indelicate communications, and to dramatically improve an article, it only takes a few.



Margaret Stout said:

Michael, you misunderstand my brief reply above.

Because of the amount of time and effort it takes to manage a wiki entry and protect it against poor or even wrong contributions and editing, I do not believe it is worth the effort as volunteers. Secondarily, the wikipedia procedures are phenomenally complex and time-consuming. If you are willing to take that on, best wishes!

I am a pracademic and fully community-engaged scholar in a second career that started at age 46. I often use wikipedia in the exact way you describe, and am a financial contributor to the organization. I am no "ivory tower" snob and throwing ugly assertions like that at people you don't know is (1) an enormous assumption and (2) incredibly rude and "un-Follettian."

I've published often enough, and formally enough, that some have assumed I am an academic. Well, if there's anything to it, I'm also a "pracademic" -- putting literal skin in the game, in places where "white American guy" spells "kidnapper bait for extremists still at large." If you think I'm rude, try filipinos! Perhaps Follett would faint! (More likely, plunge in feet first, very much in her element.)

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2666784386671999&set=pb...

Michael Eugene Turner said:

"In my view it is not worth the effort because of the crowd sourcing."

Without context, I read that as "crowd sourcing is a waste of time." If that was true, Wikipedia would be a pile of trash articles, rather than the imperfect but useful resource it clearly is.

"Because of the amount of time and effort it takes to manage a wiki entry and protect it against poor or even wrong contributions and editing, I do not believe it is worth the effort as volunteers."

This is a problem mainly for articles on high-profile topics with a dash or two controversy on the topic. I think we can all agree that Follet isn't nearly high-profile enough, and there's much in her perspective that's no more controversial than your average Harvard Business Review article about collaboration. Indeed, if HBR grows out of Drucker as much as anybody, and Drucker was a fan of Follett, it seems unlikely that edit wars or semiliterate contributions would ever be a problem. You want a war zone? Try Paul Krugman's biography on Wikipedia! (Still nursing those wounds, but also got commendations for my efforts to balance it and correct it.)

"Hopefully, people will see the terrible writing on this entry and disregard it!"

In context, I read that as "disregard the Wikipedia article." The Wikipedian response is "will improve it." That context included you promoting your own encyclopedia article, so I doubt I read you wrong.

I'd love a perfect Follet bio on Wikipedia, but the perfect is the enemy of the good. I'm glad you're a donor, and a user, but that doesn't make you an expert on what Wikipedia, as an ongoing process of never-reached perfection, actually is. If it's incredibly rude of me to say so, I have to wonder: what would Follett herself think of what I wrote in my response to you? 

"What the hard-shelled conservative always forgets is that what he really admires in the past is those very moments when men have strongly and rudely broken with tradition."

What's proposed here is change in how Mary Follet Parker's work is promoted. I'm already being accused of rudeness. If that's a necessary (if insufficient) condition, I also have strengths to bring to the project: I know a fair amount about how Wikipedia really works, what's flowing and roiling beneath a surface that few probe, and how change moves through its channels. Well, often enough, it moves rudely. That's inevitable, which is one reading of the word "necessary", after all. In a perfect world, "necessary" wouldn't have that connotation. Out of 500 members here, maybe there are a few who can stomach indelicate communications, and to dramatically improve an article, it only takes a few.



Margaret Stout said:

Michael, you misunderstand my brief reply above.

Because of the amount of time and effort it takes to manage a wiki entry and protect it against poor or even wrong contributions and editing, I do not believe it is worth the effort as volunteers. Secondarily, the wikipedia procedures are phenomenally complex and time-consuming. If you are willing to take that on, best wishes!

I am a pracademic and fully community-engaged scholar in a second career that started at age 46. I often use wikipedia in the exact way you describe, and am a financial contributor to the organization. I am no "ivory tower" snob and throwing ugly assertions like that at people you don't know is (1) an enormous assumption and (2) incredibly rude and "un-Follettian."

Not to drag this out, or to make too many assumptions, but in Dr. Stout's contribution to this thread, I hope I'm not reading too much between the lines when I say that, in her own model of organization

https://www.academia.edu/12395640/Relational_Process_Ontology_A_Gro...

she misperceives Wikipedia process as matching "Fragmented Governance" closely, when I can say from years of experience that it's a lot closer to the "Integrative Governance" described in that paper. Many who aspire to edit end up bolting, dismayed that there are actually, y'know, rules, and denouncing it as run by some cabal. Those who stick with it, however, eventually see how integrative it is, even if there are trollish exceptions who somehow narrowly avoid being banned. It's a matter of, well, may I say "Creative Experience"?

The crowning irony is perhaps that Jimbo Wales, who started Wikipedia (and who is undoubtedly a rude fellow but with great entrepreneurial strengths) believes Ayn Rand said it all, in philosophy and government -- which is pretty much a Fragmented Governance mindset. Fragmentation was an expression of Wales' ideals, but also the source of his initial doubts that the concept would fly. Wikipedia may stand as an existence proof that Integrative Governance is an emergent property of a combination of a high degree of freedom and protect-the-commons ethics, to which human beings may be naturally inclined. A believer in capitalism as "the Unknown Ideal" may have inadvertently handed us a starting point for a post-capitalist social order, while confessing that, despite styling himself as a "monarch" over the process, he has since become powerless over his own creation.

Wikipedia is a place that a lot of people will be going to getting a basic introduction to Follett. Thus, it’s worth paying some attention to. Now, there is no single perspective on someone whose work is so multifaceted and widely applicable as is Follett's, and different people place different lenses on her ideas and impact, and draw different things from them. Some see her as a management pioneer; I see her as a pioneer in political theory.

Now, I can see Margaret's point: no matter how great an effort a particular individual or group might make to craft an article, the fact that anyone from outside of the dialogue (Wikipedia being a form of dialogue itself aside for the moment), there is a legitimate question of "why bother?" To that, I’d answer “because a lot of people use Wikipedia”.

Michael is pointing out that the authorship process is itself a kind of community effort, too, and this is laudable. But that process is somewhat “porous” and has significant potential for the opposite of synergy and integration. While ideally fostering the best combination of contributions, the Wikipedia rules do allow for zero-sum types of results, mutual nullification, or a mish-mosh that fails to really capture diversity.

I still think it’s worth continued exploration of how the Follett listing on Wikipedia can be steered toward the inclusivity-integration level of quality and away from the muddled mish-mosh, or exclusive, one-sided, etc. low-quality result.

Hi Michael and fellow Follett followers.  Another pracademic chiming in here.

I am wondering if the Wikepedia effort ever went anywhere. I've read through the thread to date, and cannot tell what ultimately happened.

I may be willing to help out if there is a useful (and relatively painfree :) way to do so.

Mary - I'm not aware of any specific outcome from the discussion here. Looking at the Wikipedia article, I still think it needs a lot of work. Just one example: it now includes the frequently attributed yet never actually cited quote "Management is the art of getting things done through people". That shouldn't be there. Just one of many aspects of the article needing work.

One challenge to a wholesale re-do is the fact that Follett's insights and ideas have universal themes that impact in so many areas, different people tend to emphasize different things. We could attempt to structure the article such that as complete as possible a picture is painted, perhaps in a way that remains somewhat stable even through incremental revisions.

In any event, I'd look forward to your thoughts on what to do!

- Matthew

Mary Lang said:

Hi Michael and fellow Follett followers.  Another pracademic chiming in here.

I am wondering if the Wikepedia effort ever went anywhere. I've read through the thread to date, and cannot tell what ultimately happened.

I may be willing to help out if there is a useful (and relatively painfree :) way to do so.

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