[Foundation-l] Priorities and opportunities

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Tue Sep 29 18:39:27 UTC 2009

Samuel Klein wrote:
> On Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 11:20 PM, Philippe Beaudette wrote:
>> On Sep 26, 2009, at 9:32 PM, Samuel Klein wrote:
>>> Do you think we will be in a position to run a second usability
>>> project of similar scope, two years from now, entirely from within the
>>> community?
>> Are you sure that's the best option?
> We should be capable of such a thing as a community, in terms of
> knowledge, experience, and process.  That does not mean there is no
> place for the outside input or guidance you devilishly advocate.

I think that Philippe's question is important.  Renewal processes from 
within are often stuck in a community's own inertia, and an inability of 
most people to look upon those processes with any kind of detachment.  
Those who are comfortable with existing processes become ill at ease 
with the notion that they might have to change the way they do things.  
Inertia makes it most difficult to abandon the most outrageous aspects 
of requests for adminship. Those of us who recognize those outrages most 
clearly do so with the clarity of infrequent participants, and have 
little stomach or patience for the hand-to-hand combat that would be 
required to effect change.
>> doing anything that's entirely from within the community brings
>> its own unique set of challenges.
> Yes.
> That said, there are degrees of community nature.  Many contractors we
> have worked with were already Wikipedians to a small degree.

That's fine. "Small degree" allows a person some time to become familiar 
with the underlying philosophy and operational parameters, without the 
zealotry that often comes with "large degree".
> Imagine that we succeed in helping every person in the world learn,
> and in engaging most of them to share what they know with others.
> Then we will be a global community with few boundaries.   At which
> point you can ask: How much of a project requires engaging people who
> would not otherwise do it, and how much can we accomplish by
> coordinating those already gladly doing to such work?

I apologize in advance if I characterize this as starry-eyed idealism.  
There's even a very American element of believing "We have the best 
system in the world so why wouldn't everyone else want to adopt it."  
That builds resentment and antagonism among those who are not within the 
system.  From the inside, it is difficult to see that we engage people 
just as much when we provide them with positive encouragement to work on 
a competing project. The problem with co-ordinating those already doing 
the work is that it encourages inertia.  Headquarters evolve into 
creationist Wizards of Oz at the centre of the universe, and not because 
it is decreed by any intelligent design; it just evolves that way.

The wisdom of crowds is a statistical operation.  Its fractal geometry 
succeeds because most people accidentally choose the right answer.  At 
the same time it allows for statistically deviant results which run the 
gamut from great ideas to outright stupidities.  This is in sharp 
contrast to the kind of rigidly syllogistic thinking that has dominated 
western thought since at least the time of Plato.  Syllogistic thought 
fails to accommodate the power of the paradox.

> An example that does not cross the community/outsider boundary:
> translating a given set of documents.   Requesting translations can
> feel like pulling teeth, asking favors of people who would rather do
> something else.  But every day there are ten times as many people
> enthusiastically handling translation requests to create or improve
> Wikipedia articles.  This is a question of finding and directing
> existing interest, and sharing the underlying drive and vision for why
> it matters.
The community of translators is a validly defined sub-community with its 
own insiders and outsiders. Some will respond to established priorities 
for what needs translating; others will translate whatever they damn 
well please. If the pool of translators for a given language is big 
enough there is a high probability that everything that needs doing will 
be done.  It is that last sentence with which I take issue because it 
ignores the influence of Murphy and the trickster.  The people you are 
trying to direct or drive (or herd) are not sheep; they're cats.  The 
vision that you propose to share is yours not theirs. This does not make 
your vision wrong; it's just not theirs.  Sheep cannot build a 
Wikipedia; only cats can.


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