"For internecine intrigue and power struggles, the Wikipedia makes the
Vatican look like a coffee clatch. This seemingly informal
encyclopedia that anyone can edit is in fact a wiki-ocracy where
self-anointed experts vie for control."
Some numbers are not quite correct, but this is good! Lame people
don't know everything about us!
 - http://infoworld.com/d/adventures-in-it/faith-in-numbers-six-more-tech-cult…
On Sat, Jun 5, 2010 at 2:03 PM, <susanpgardner(a)gmail.com> wrote:
> Sorry for top-posting.
> Austin, think about who "everyone" is. The folks here on foundation-l are not representative of readers. The job of the user experience team is to try to balance all readers' needs, which is not easy, and will sometimes involve making decisions that not everyone agrees with. People here have given some useful input, but I think it's far from obvious that the user experience team has made a "mistake.". (I'm not really intending to weigh in on this particular issue -- I'm speaking generally.)
Sue, you appear to be making the assumption that the folks here are
writing from a position of their personal preferences while the
usability team is working on the behalf of the best interests of the
I don't believe this comparison to be accurate.
The interlanguage links can be easily unhidden by anyone who knows
about them. The site remembers that you clicked to expand them. That
memory is short, but it wouldn't take any real effort to override with
personal settings... or people can disable Vector (which is what I've
done, because Vector is slow, even though I like it a lot overall).
In short, there is little reason for a sophisticated user to complain
about this for their own benefit.
I think the people here are speaking up for the sake of the readers,
and for the sake of preserving the best of the existing design
principles used on the site. I know I am.
Non-agreement on personal preferences is an entirely different matter
than non-agreement about how to best help our readers and how to best
express the values and principles behind the operation of our sites.
I was alarmed when I heard the click rates: 1%. That's an enormous
number of clicks, considerably higher than I expected with the large
number of things available for folks to click on. To hear that it
went down considerably with Vector—well, if nothing else, it is a
possible objective indication that the change has reduced the
usability of the site. It is absolutely clear evidence that this
change has made a material impact on how we express ourselves to the
world. I think it's clear from my earlier messages, before I knew the
actual number, that I would have regarded figures like this as
evidence of a clear mistake.
There is a clear attitude from the foundation staff that I, and
others, are perceiving in these discussions. The notion that the
community of contributors is a particularly whiny batch of customers
who must be 'managed', that they express demands unconnected from the
needs of the readers... and that it is more meaningful when a couple
of office staff retreat to some meeting room and say "we reached a
decision". Sadly, this attitude appears to be the worst from the
former volunteers on the staff—they are not afraid to speak up in
community discussion, and feel a need to distinguish themselves from
all the volunteers.
This needs to stop and a point needs to be made clear:
This community is who made the sites. I don't just mean the articles.
I mean the user interfaces, the PR statements, the fundraiser
material, _everything_. The success rates for companies trying to
build large and popular websites is miserable. Every successful one is
a fluke, and all the successful ones have a staff and budget orders of
magnitude larger than yours.
We have an existence proof that the community is able to manage the
operation of the sites at a world class level. Certainly there are
many things which could have been done better, more uniformly, more
completely, or with better planning... but the community has a proven
competence in virtually every area that the foundation is now
attempting to be directly involved in. Not every member of the
community, of course, but the aggregate.
Wikimedia's ability to do these things is an unknown, but the (lack
of) successes of other closed companies running websites—even ones
staffed by brilliant people—suggests that it is most likely that you
will also be unsuccessful. I don't mean this as a comment on the
competence of anyone involved (as I know many of them to be rather
fantastic people), it's just the most likely outcome.
Imagine a resume for the community as a unit:
* Expertise in every imaginable subject.
* Simultaneous background in almost every human culture.
* Speaks hundreds of languages.
* Wrote the world's largest encyclopedia.
* Built one of the world's most popular websites, from the ground up.
* Managed to make an encyclopedia somehow interesting enough to be a
* Managed the fundraising campaigns to support the entire operating
cost of the above mentioned Top-N website on charitable contributions
for many years.
* On and on, etc.
(Like all resumes, this does not highlight the negatives--just
proclaims what it's been able to accomplish in spite of them.)
Somehow, the community knows how to take the ragtag assembly of its
members: the whining, the warped personal preferences, the inspired
motivations of individuals and small groups, the collective voice of
the uninformed, and a smattering of contributions from world class
experts the likes of which we'd never be able to hire and retain, the
good and the bad—and fuse it into something which can build output
with broad appeal and generally consistent, if somewhat strange,
I've personally been quick to dismiss people who wax philosophic about
"the wisdom of crowds"... all of the great community work I've seen is
mostly an effort from dedicated individuals and small groups, not some
'crowd'. And yet there clearly is something there, because the
community delivers results superior to that of most other small groups
and individuals. I guess the real power comes from that fact that
every issue can be attacked by a custom small group from a nearly
infinite set, plus a little crowd input. Whatever it is, it clearly
If Wikimedia itself can't learn how to either develop the same
coalition-building skills, participate within the existing community
process, or stand out of the way—we'll lose something great.
I think it's unfortunate that the foundation has an apparent
difficulty in _contributing_ without _commanding_. There are areas
where the community's coverage is inadequate or inconsistent, and I
think that dedicated staff acting as gap-fillers could greatly improve
the results. But not if the price of those contributions is to exclude
or pigeonhole the great work done by the broad community, either
directly by "we reached a decision"-type edicts, or indirectly by
removing the personal pride and responsibility that people feel for
the complete site.
In this discussion we don't merely have personal preferences, we're
arguing principles of design and hypothesizing benefit for the
readers. And, excluding the foundation staff, we appear to have a
broad, if not complete, consensus that the inter-language links should
come back. In the community-operated model this would already be done
I'm also left confused and wondering about one point I consider very important.
If the challenge is to "balance all readers' needs" why is the
usability staff currently spending time arguing with the community
about some silly sidebar links while the site is still _unviewable_ by
a non-trivial portion of our readers (BlackBerry) as a result of the
latest usability improvements? In the past the community resolvent
these kinds of issues very rapidly, though sometimes by undoing the
> When I read: "Wikisource content in the French language targets the French
> public, and therefore, under French conflict of laws principles, the
> copyright law of France applies to this content." I do read the French
> public. Wikisource does not target the French public per se.
I agree with you about this. Unfortunately, that turns out to be an
inadequate argument when it comes to justifying noncompliance with a
We consulted with French counsel on the question of compliance, and neither
they nor we believed there was a strong probability that French court would
invalidate the takedown notice on the grounds that Wikisource does not
target the French public in particular.
In a message dated 6/8/2010 12:04:07 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
> > "For internecine intrigue and power struggles, the Wikipedia makes the
> > Vatican look like a coffee clatch. This seemingly informal
> > encyclopedia that anyone can edit is in fact a wiki-ocracy where
> > self-anointed experts vie for control."
> Oh man, I like that quote. Can I have it printed on a badge
> or a T-shirt? >>
Yes if you weigh 8,000 kilos
We expect a publicity storm around pending changes. Jay doesn't
currently plan to do a press release as such, but we're definitely
getting ready with talking point sheets and Q+As and a blog post and
etc. For obvious reasons, this is best drafted in public.
Journalists are <s>simple creatures</s> busy generalists. In my
experience they do like to get things right - but if you want them to
get it right, you have to distill things into a *robust soundbite*.
I'm good with soundbites (if I say so myself), but obviously accuracy
is rather important.
This is what I have so far, off the top of my head:
"Some of our pages are locked from *anyone* editing them. With this,
we can open those up so people can edit the draft version, which then
goes live. Should be on the order of minutes, if it's over an hour
it's too slow. The trial's starting with locked pages about living
people. We'll see how it goes."
Now then. That's soundbitey enough it's hard to mess up. But is it
factually accurate? I must admit I haven't been keeping up with
precisely what this week's consensus is. And how the extension is
functioning in detail and so forth. Corrections please?
[Note: This post is strictly from me as a press volunteer helping WMF
and WMUK and likely victim of a melting phone, rather than any
On 6 Jun 2010, at 22:54, Keegan Peterzell <keegan.wiki(a)gmail.com> wrote:
> Let's start a meta page where people can
> register thoughts/complaints/grievances/joy/sorry to WMF staff. If
> it is a
> serious concern, the staff can respond after someone consults with
> them and
> receive either a you can handle it or I can handle it response.
I always thought that the mailing lists filled this role, albeit off-
wiki and in a less rigid way.
When the WMF makes a
> decision to intervene in the projects, full and informative
> communication isn't just a nice-if-you-can-get-it side benefit of
> dealing with a small company - it's essential to maintaining the
> fabric of a massively participatory and cooperative endeavor.
I think if you look at what we did with regard to the Gallimard takedowns --
1) Consulting with French legal experts before taking any action
2) Compelling Gallimard to narrow and specify their takedown demands
3) Enlisting community members to implement the takedowns
4) Including (though not required to do so) contact and identifying
information for Gallimard
5) Providing a complete list of what Gallimard demanded to be taken down
-- you see both a high degree of deliberation on our part (we didn't simply
jump to comply) and an effort to make clear to the community what we were
doing and why, and to involve the community, even at the same point in time
at which we followed through on the takedown demands.
You may remember than Yann originally asserted some kind of double standard
(maybe that we're more afraid of French publishers than of British
museums?), and Andre suggested that we simply (and fearfully) comply with
facially invalid takedown requests. Neither notion is true. Somehow those
notions didn't exactly feel cooperative.
I think it's essential to maintaining the fabric of a massively
participatory and cooperative endeavor that one first give some attention to
the full facts of how we responded, rather than jumping to (negative)
conclusions about our motivations and interests. My view is that, to the
extent possible, I want to minimize the exposure of community members to
legal risk even as I'm doing the same for the Foundation. Partly this means
adhering to the framework of the applicable laws, including copyright laws
-- so, yes, we will normally comply with a formally correct takedown notice,
just as we will comply with a formally correct "put up" demand. We'll also
help targeted community members find independent legal counsel when we can,
and we'll support chapters that seek to provide professional legal advice to
the community as well. We do generally have to obey the rules, however, and
we didn't create them.
I think most of us contribute as we feel that this is our encyclopedia.
This is especially true for those not being paid but I am sure it also
applies to those on staff as well. An us versus them mentality does not add
anything. We are all here for one main purpose " to write the best
encyclopedia we can ". I do not like the idea of patting ourselves on the
back just because we are doing a great job compared to a standard
corporation / business. Wikipedia is not a standard business and that is
why it works. That software cannot be written using the same open format as
Wikipedia has been proved false by both Linux and Firefox. I think Bold,
Revert, Discuss can be used at all levels and that stifling discussion is
never appropriate. I do agree that sometimes one needs to implemented the
change to create something to discuss ( see the first word of the three
MD, CCFP-EM, B.Sc.