[WikiEN-l] Comparison with other wikis

John Lee johnleemk at gawab.com
Tue Feb 7 12:48:34 UTC 2006

Geoff Burling wrote:

>On Mon, 6 Feb 2006, David Gerard wrote:
>>Heh. Since you bring it up, I'll give the list the comparable
>>experience of Uncyclopedia.
>The following is probably off-topic, but since the subject line is
>appropriate to my subject, I'm hi-jacking this branch of the thread.
>Last weekend I took part in the RecentChangesCamp that was held here
>in Portland, where I had the oportunity to talk to Ward Cunningham &
>heard from him his experience with his own pioneering Wiki at
>www.c2.com. (He may have discussed it at Wikimania last summer, but the
>first time I heard about the following was last weekend.)
>One thing he had done -- much as Jimbo did a few years ago with Wikipedia --
>was to identify a number of contributors (either 14 in number, or a total
>of folks whose average time dedicated to Wikiwiki totalled an FTE of 14, I'm
>a little hazy here) who showed sufficient knowledge of how the Wiki & the
>community worked, & made them his assistants to help him deal with spam,
>vandalism, & other malicious behavior towards the Wiki. This allowed him
>to step back & devote more time to other things, & because he wasn't as
>closely involved in the day-to-day activities of the wiki on c2.com he
>was spreading the word of the success of the Wiki way, how the community
>was successfully managing itself & dealing with its problems. And he
>honestly believed this.
>He had this utopian belief corrected after a couple of years when the Wiki
>was rocked by a severe flamewar over a "trivial matter" that had gone as
>far as the opposing sides each creating bots to revert the edits of the
>other side. (For the record, the controversy was over whether to keep or
>delete a node that was a parody of the movie "Fight Club", called
>"BoogerClub".) As he spent time not only to get to the bottom of the
>matter, but also to bring himself up to date with the Wiki & the community,
>he discovered that the struggle to keep the Wiki usable & in order had
>burned out his assistants in their long, hard & unappreciated efforts.
>Ward said he was able to help his assistants by adding a simple bit of
>code which prevented bots from functioning on his Wiki -- which stopped
>the spamming immediately & brought a cease-fire to the major flamewar,
>but the damage had been done. People left, & WikiWiki "plateaued" in
>growth, losing something of its original excitement & attraction.
>I've held off on sharing this story with this mailling list because I
>feel that in telling it, it should have a moral or a lesson -- but I'm
>not smart enough to point to it. Except to belabor the obvious point
>that Wiki communities aren't as self-regulating as people think they are.
>(P.S. I talked about Wikipedia at the conference to quite a few interested
>people, & I hope I didn't help perpetuate too many myths. You can
>check the record at www.recentchangescamp.org & learn for yourself.)
"Self-regulating" would be a true anarchist model whereby everyone can 
do anything, I think. Certainly something based on consensus. Consensus 
doesn't scale. I think the moral about burned-out old editors is a good 
one, though. We need to carefully avoid placing people on a pedestal 
because of their past accomplishments. If you're wrong, you're wrong. I 
think the solution is to expand the number of "super-trustable" users 
who will have real authority around Wikipedia. Right now only the arbcom 
has any authority, because authority is derived only from Jimbo and/or 
the Board.

My proposal: Give the 'crats authority. Right now both 'crats and admins 
are theoretically equal to normal editors, only with a few more tools. I 
think this is the right attitude to take towards admins, because 
adminship should be no big deal. But bureaucratship is far from "no big 
deal", and I think this should be reflected in that bureaucrats should 
have some higher standing in the community. They should be able to step 
in and desysop in cases like wheel wars. They should be able to say, 
"Ok, that's it, let's cut the crap" -- much like the arbcom or Jimbo 
would/should. (This raises the problem of 'crat wheel warring, but 
presumably because of the huge big dealness of this, we'll only have a 
limited number of 'crats at any one time, anyhow.)

I actually think Wikipedia is headed towards a similar fate like the 
site Geoff mentioned -- consensus doesn't scale when communities grow, 
because consensus gives people with dug-in heels the ability to stop 
change in its tracks or even go berserk (take the case of wheel warring 
-- consensus presumes admins are capable of coming to a consensus, even 
if there are 800+ of them). In any large number of people, you'll easily 
find people who will never budge on a particular issue. Unfortunately, a 
wiki works on consensus -- if there's no consensus, the wiki fails. 
(Revert warring is a case where there is no consensus, and we all know 
how ugly revert wars are.)

One thing I see different from Geoff's case study, however, is that the 
founder of this wiki has stepped back but forgot to delegate power. The 
only people around with any authority are the arbcom, and how effective 
are they? They can't even intervene unless someone appeals to them or 
Jimbo thrusts a case on them. They don't ever step into a dispute while 
it's on-going and say "STFU, cut this out or we'll desysop/ban you lot," 
which is something Jimbo used to do (remember those naming disputes like 
[[Gdansk]] or the autofellatio scandal?). IMO, Jimbo needs to delegate 
this dispute-stopping power to someone, because Jimbo can't be putting 
out fires all the time. Hence, the 'crats.

I know this will be controversial and unlikely to pass, but it's my 
honest opinion. Something has to be done. I'm fed up of all this crap 
going on. The 'crats don't have to rule who's wrong or right. They just 
have to put their foot down real hard, like Jimbo would. For instance, 
in the recent userbox shitfight, Jimbo/they could just have said, "Kelly 
and Tony must stop deleting userboxes this instant and discuss or they 
will be desysoped." This isn't a ruling that would have ruled them to be 
wrong (in that the userboxes were bad). It would just have ruled that 
they were wrong in wheel warring over the userboxes. The arbcom can 
decide on the legality of the userboxes.

In a sense, this proposal would finally create three independent 
branches of "government" (because Wikipedia does not have a real 
government) -- executive, legislative and judicial. (The legislative 
branch is the community, of course -- anyone can create a new policy and 
get consensus for it.) Until now Jimbo has had to step in whenever 
people (especially cabal members) need to be told to cool off. He 
shouldn't have to. Jimbo's role is being the face of the foundation and 
being the last court of appeal. He has to handle all the Wikimedia 
projects -- he shouldn't be spending his time tackling problems on the 
English Wikipedia.

John Lee

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