[Wikimedia-l] Patience

Fred Bauder fredbaud at fairpoint.net
Wed May 15 12:00:42 UTC 2013

We could create a Facebook page, "Wikipedia Chill", where only positive
interactions are permitted...

Only half joking here. We can consciously design interactions in terms of
their emotional tenor should we chose to. In an example taken from life,
we can keep vicious dogs for the effect they have on the possibility of
constructive dialogue and collaboration, or not.


> I just wanted to add another thought to this, which occurred to me on the
> bus in to work this morning.
> There is an insight from a school of psychotherapy called Transactional
> Analysis* that, while all of us have a basic need to interact with one
> another, that need is fulfilled as much by negative interactions as
> positive ones. If positive interactions are lacking (which they often
> are,
> because we are socially conditioned to avoid providing positive
> interactions unless there is a "good reason"), then negative interactions
> will substitute for them because they fulfill the same psychological
> need,
> just in a much more dysfunctional way.
> I wouldn't recommend this as rigorously-proven scientific analysis but
> I've
> often been surprised by how true it can be.
> Perhaps when email lists are quiet we should simply praise each other
> more?
> ;-)
> *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transactional_analysis
> On Wed, May 15, 2013 at 8:31 AM, Chris Keating
> <chriskeatingwiki at gmail.com>wrote:
>> 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.
>> Regards,
>> Chris
>> 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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