[WikiEN-l] Unused userboxes

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Fri Feb 17 01:15:59 UTC 2006

Jimmy Wales wrote:

>charles matthews wrote:
>>"Matt Brown" wrote
>>>I do suspect in the current climate that will just make a dozen people
>>start to use it, to protect it.
>>Something to that.  Attention-seeking behaviour is sometimes best
>>treated by ignoring it, as parents know.
>Having said that, I heard today that the number of userboxes, and in
>particular the number of very problematic userboxes, has exploded.  I
>think this is seriously Not Good For Our Loving Little Community.
>I am not doing anything about it just yet, but I am willing to concede
>that my nonviolent social request that people knock it off and think
>about what it means to be a Wikipedian has not gotten very far.
Regrettably, this kind of philosophical self-examination is not very 
popular.  My experience has been that the more thought is put into an 
idea, the more readily it will be ignored.  Still as much as I may be 
justified in complaining that people don't pay attention to what I say, 
I must confess that some of the most interesting  (if somewhat prolix) 
comments put me into such a paralysis of meditation that I fail to 
respond with the careful attention that these comments deserve.

These user boxes seem to be the Wiki's answer to the 10-second 
soundbite.  Compact as much as possible into a tiny box to achieve a 
particular effect.  If need be sacrifice accuracy for the sake of 
brevity.  That kind of thinking would have gourmet cuisine epitomized by 

I am no fan of the Bush administration, but I find the Cheney shooting 
incident instructive.  It says more about the way that such events are 
processed than about any culpability that may be attached to those 
directly involved.  What difference did it make if the reporting was not 
through accepted channels?  There was no matter of public policy 
involved, or any consequences that would plausibly affect anyone other 
than those directly involved.  Whatever fault I may find with the 
current US administration let it at least be over real issues, and not 
over the microscopic examination of a single personal event.  Many more 
meaningful incidents are discussed far less by the press than this 
single accidental shooting.

The userboxes, and the media treatment of the shooting both reflect an 
amazingly similar problem.  The instantaneification of information is 
incompatible with its enormousness.  We want knowledge in quantities 
that we can understand.  We keep hoping that just around the corner we 
will find that magical piece of software that will make it all as clear 
as 42.   Our addiction to virtual reality makes it difficult to 
distinguish whether the person who has moved into the house next door is 
Homer Simpson or Pikachu.  Perhaps being a Wikipedian is seeking to 
build the tools that will help us to cope with that reality.

>As far as I can determine, and I am very much aware that I am here
>prejudicing the terms of debate, this is a cultural battle between
>wikipedians and people who have stumbled into this cool site they heard
>about on CNN where you can write whatever the hell you want and argue
>with people for fun.
Participating in the debate is somewhat acceptable in guiding people to 
their own decision.  If people can be willingly guided into a consensus 
it is always preferable to the application of "force majeure".

Reference: Paul Virilio, "The Information Bomb"


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