Summary: I read today that only 6% of the people on the planet have
ever logged into the Internet. Only about half have ever used a
telephone. So Erik's concerns about schoolchildren in India do
resonate with me. I just think it's too early to settle on any
particular certification scheme.
You may find it disturbing, but the truth is that
there are people like
Jimbo who can make high level decisions, and there are sysops that have
more power than ordinary users. Many of these decisions already happen in
places that most people don't know about (e.g. the mailing list). Glossing
over the truth doesn't make it go away: there is a Wikipedia cabal.
To the extent this is true, we should work to make it less true. Keep
in mind that sysop status is open to anyone. Sysop powers should be
kept to just what is absolutely minimally necessary. The mailing list
should be (and is, I think) promoted to such an extent that anyone
with an interest in policy can understand that this is where to come
for most policy discussions, etc.
The problem with getting comfortable with a cabal is that it will tend
to make us lazy about our commitment to openness.
I have already suggested a voting scheme that would
decision processes by the inevitable administration. Aside from extreme
opinions like "voting doesn't work", I see few arguments against that. We
need to talk openly about this kind of stuff, or what you find disturbing
will turn into a nightmare eventually.
Well, voting _doesn't_ work, and I don't think that's an extreme
The wiki procedure is to try to get near unanimous consensus. This is
done in the writing of articles, and is inherent to the wiki process.
Authors work together to meet the objections of others, not to
campaign for sufficient numbers to vote down the opposing point of
view. We simulate that process, imperfectly but to a large degree, in
policy decision making.
So what I am suggesting is an alternative viewing mode
that would *never*
be the default but optional. It would allow me to browse a Wikipedia where
the article about Mozart *can* not just have been replaced by an image
from goatse.cx. Instead, I would view the last certified version of that
article, which hopefully would be brilliant prose.
I think it is inevitable that we, or someone, will someday create such
a thing. One proposal sometimes bandied about is that Nupedia could
become a repository for peer-reviewed articles from wikipedia.
As a matter of fact, it would hopefully attract all
that are afraid that something like the above happens to their
sacro-sanct articles -- it could still happen, but they could find
peace of mind in the fact that the vandalized version would never be
I think that the tiny percentage of people who treat their own writing
as sacrosanct will not be comfortable with any free-license writing
Last but not least, we should not forget that WP is
intended to be a
useful tool, not just for those who like to write, but for those who like
to read, too. Be it interested adults or curious children, rich or poor,
we want Wikipedia to be accessible. We may want to distribute it on CD-
ROMs and on paper. Then how on Earth are the schoolchildren in India going
to wade through megabytes of Middle Earth mythology and stubs, if not if
we supply them with at least the option to filter articles according to
criteria developed collaboratively by various teams, working together to
find the sparkling gems among the ocean we are creating?
"Being a wiki" doesn't mean that we shouldn't extend the original wiki
functionality. Had we stayed with that, Wikipedia would have never become
that big. We would still be using CamelCase.
I totally agree with all of this. But I'm not sure that the time is
ripe just yet. Perhaps in another year. I'm open to alternative
points of view on this, but I think we're not close enough yet to
"well rounded" to start seriously worrying about these issues.