[WikiEN-l] Comparison with other wikis

Geoff Burling llywrch at agora.rdrop.com
Wed Feb 8 06:01:13 UTC 2006

On Tue, 7 Feb 2006, Guettarda wrote:

> On 2/7/06, Jay Converse <supermo0 at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > If people had WWJD (What Would Jimbo Do) in mind when they start fighting
> > over stuff, a lot of this crap would just go away.
> >
> >
> Actually I think the aura of the God-King has either faded for a lot of
> people, or they never had a sense of it in the first place (cf, Karmafist
> wheel warring with Jimbo).  Our constitutional monarchy model has problems
> .
Okay, I thought this was as obvious as the sun shines in the daylight,
but it appears to me a few people are taking this metaphor *way* too

Jimbo is NOT a Godking. Nor a God. Nor a King.

Wikipedia is NOT a monarchy. Nor a democracy. Nor any kind of government.

If this is a suprise to you, then you are clearly lacking a clue.

Then just what *is* Wikipedia? I am not a lawyer, but I dare say that it is
a contract: two sides have entered into an agreement, each providing services
for the others' benefit.[*] On one side, Jimbo has taken responsibility for
providing servers, bandwidth & software to the other side, with the
expectation that the other side produces an encyclopedia that meets his
expectations. If that doesn't happen, then he reserves the right to
(literally) pull the plug on the project, & all of us can start looking for
something  else to do with our time.

The other side is the rest of us -- the volunteers who contribute to
Wikipedia. We contribute our efforts in the expectation that -- well, I
assume that we do this in hope of receiving some kind of satisfaction for
our efforts. Quite simply, if one, some, most or all of us don't receive
satisfaction from our contributions -- we'll leave. You may not believe
this, but there are a surprising number of projects like Wikipedia out
there & if Wikipedia's not to our liking, we'll go to one of these other
projects & contribute to them. (And I believe in the case of a few people,
they might actually be happier at one of these other projects.)

Now having stated this painfully obvious situation, I'm going state a less
obvious one: there are a number of good, responsible contributors in
Wikipedia who fear this project is drifting into rule by fiat. In other
words, they are uncomfortable with other contributors arbitrarily making
changes without explanation, while they must needs justify their actions.
(I don't know if there's any substance to these complaints, or this is
just a number of troublemakers trying to lie their way out of trouble,
but I am surprised to see a few long-term Wikipedians agree with this
opinion. And it's hard to dismiss this as clueless whining when I see
phrases like "process fetishisation" thrown around here by people who
should know a little better.)

Maybe the different sides ought to talk about this problem a bit more.
Anyone here notice that we have talk pages all over the place, an email
list, an IRC channel & face-to-face meetings? The only weakness with
this richness of communication is that not all of us are conversant with
all of these media, so don't think that asking a question on a single
talk page, or IRC or one email list alone will be seen by everyone who
does care. After all, all of the "evuhl proc3ss fetishizing" really
boils down to getting input from your fellow editors before you make
major changes; & most of the time, the input is either silence (which
one can safely assume means consent), explicit consent, or some useful
suggestions. And if the input is critical or useless . . . well,
ignoring the dumbasses & making the change anyway is going to lead to
problems anyway. Either accept that people are going to be mad, or
build a consensus before you are bold.

And before anyone starts placing me in one group or another in these
recent disputes, let me say that for the most part I don't have a beef
with anyone: I try to just contribute material, edit articles, & hope
that my writing & spelling isn't too crappy. I want Wikipedia to
succeed like everyone else, & when I see it mentioned in a newstory
or tv program I feel a mixure of pride -- & embarassment over the
faults I know it still has. As long as it's not clearly offensive,
I don't care what people do with their user pages -- but I admit I
could get worked up over this. I have Admin rights, but I rarely use
them because I rarely need to. Like Stan Shebs commented in another
thread, I learn about most of these threats that endanger Wikipedia
from reading this mailling list.

I just feel that declaring Jimbo the expert we should obey without
question, or demonizing those who disagree with him, isn't a constructive
solution. Wikis & the NPOV principle make it easy to talk with those
we disagree with: so why don't we try to emphasize *that* instead of
deciding to get tough on the other side?

BTW, the Wikipedia article on "wheel warring" (or whatever it is called)
sucks. I've read it several times, & all I've learned from it is that
it has something to do with two or more people obtaining root on the
same machine -- which surprises me, as this term has been thrown around
an awful lot lately. Maybe someone who's experienced or seen a "wheel war"
can provide a better explaination.


[*] Technically, this is not exactly what a contract is -- but in
the most part, what I have written applies. Since a lawyer is, by
definition, an expert in technicalities & exactitude, this explanation
makes it clear that I am not one.

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