[Wikimedia-l] Patience

Chris Keating chriskeatingwiki at gmail.com
Wed May 15 07:31:57 UTC 2013

Thank you Michael for the thoughtful post!

I very much agree. I read somewhere (don't ask me for a citation!) that the
physiological effects of anger - increased levels of adrenalin and
cortisol, high heart rate, and the like - take about 30 minutes to return
to normal after something happens that makes you angry.

Back in the day if you received a letter that made you angry, you would
have several hours to write an immediate response, which would then
probably take several more hours to reach its recipient, who would probably
respond the next day... plenty of time for the physical reaction of anger
to subside.

Email, usenet, PhPBB, wikis and the like means there is a technological
method of ensuring that responses can be written and shared instantly (and
angrily) and, indeed, in heated threads you can quite happily exchange
messages which provoke an emotional response quickly enough that your
flight-or-fight reflex is being triggered repeatedly over a period of hours
with every ping of your inbox.

So basically; yes, I agree.



On Wed, May 15, 2013 at 7:45 AM, Michael Snow <wikipedia at frontier.com>wrote:

> I originally wrote this message last year on a nonpublic list. It seemed
> to be well received, and some people asked me to share it publicly, but I
> didn't get around to it then. I think this would be a good time to share it
> here now. It is not specifically directed at recent issues here, but I
> think it does have some relevance. (I have some thoughts more directly
> related to those matters as well, which I hope to share when I have time to
> write them down. That might not happen until late Friday, which is probably
> not the best time for it, but based on recent history perhaps I can still
> hope some people will be reading then.)
> Internet technology is known for letting things happen much faster than
> they did before we were all so connected. This speed now seems normal to us
> and, being immersed in that culture, we have come to expect it. Wikis, as
> one aspect of that culture, have the feature of making that speed a
> personal tool - you can make something happen right away. How many of us
> got involved because we saw a mistake and figuratively couldn't wait to fix
> it? And when we discovered that we literally didn't have to wait, we were
> hooked.
> One result of this is a culture that caters to impatience, sometimes even
> rewards it. And that's why we are often tempted to think that being
> irritable is a way of getting things done. We imagine: this problem should
> be instantly solved, my idea can be implemented right away, I will be
> immediately informed about whatever I care about. But as our culture grows
> in scale, none of that remains true (and perhaps, we get more irritated as
> a result).
> I wish I could say that because it's a matter of scale, technology will
> take care of things because that's how we handle scaling. However, the
> issue is not about whether the technology will scale, but whether the
> culture will scale. On a cultural level, scaling issues are not handled by
> technology alone. They are handled by establishing shared values (be bold,
> but also wait for consensus), by agreeing upon standard procedures (which
> provide important protections when designed well, but also introduce
> delays), and by dividing up responsibilities (which requires that we trust
> others).
> That last bit is critical; people have repeatedly suggested a certain
> mistrust underlies the repeated flareups. Well, the reason that mistrust
> has grown so much is because we are often impatient, and take shortcuts in
> order to "get things done" (or so we believe). The impatience manifests on
> all sides--to illustrate: volunteers get impatient about the effort needed
> for any kind of policy change, chapters get impatient about requirements to
> develop internal controls and share reports on their activities, staff get
> impatient about time involved in consulting with the community. Everyone
> thinks it would be so much better if they were free to just do things and
> not have to deal with these hassles. But in every one of these scenarios,
> and I'm sure I could come up with many more, if we let impatience guide us,
> inevitably more trust will be drained out of the system.
> Patience as a virtue is in short supply on the internet. It is not native
> to our culture, but we must apply it in order to scale. Fortunately, it is
> simply a matter of maturity and self-control at appropriate moments. I
> encourage us all to practice it.
> --Michael Snow
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