QUOTE(thekohser @ Tue 4th May 2010, 4:40pm)
QUOTE(Abd @ Tue 4th May 2010, 2:28pm)
in the Wikisource discussion. Fools rush in....
I know it's only been a couple of hours, but you seem to have stunned them into silence, Abd. Well done. Now what? Can a bunch of sheep be transformed into mighty lions, merely by reading your prose?
Doesn't seem terribly likely, does it?
A couple of thoughts. I've done something there that, if I valued my account, I'd never do. I told the community that if there are problems, they are the community's fault. It's not Jimbo's fault, it's not Kohs' fault, it's a collective fault. It's our
fault. Most people will do almost anything rather than accept responsibility. It is much easier to blame others, and then imagine that if just these others can be excluded, desysopped, forced to stop exerting authority, or just shamed into silence, all will be well.
Once in a while, though, a community will recognize and accept a message like that, and act on it. More commonly, if they can reach the whistle-blower, they will tear him to shreds.
The wiki system that developed, with an administrative cabal, Jimbo called it, that was advised by the general community, depends on a coherent community, but the community is rarely coherent. It does tend to develop a general consensus, that slowly improves -- sometimes -- over time. When elements in the community slavishly follow the cabal, a loop is set up, the restraint that the community would exert over the cabal disappears.
When a group of people are volunteers, when their activity cannot be coerced, and when they are the largest contributor of value, collectively, to some project, they have the real power, unless their contributions are replaceable. However, typically, large volunteer groups working in an organization aren't organized, they depend on the organization for that.
If the editorial community were to self-organize, there would be no power that could prevent it from finding, on the one hand, internal consensus and thus coherence, an ability to act with one mind, or, on the other hand, to identify coherent subgroups that cannot agree, or which are not ready to agree, and which could therefore fission, partially or fully, both becoming, through this, freer and more efficient. When there is no critical property involved, fission can enhance the overall function of an organization. There are then two organizations which can sometimes cooperate and sometimes compete, and the sum of this can be greater.
There is no critical property involved in Wikipedia. If half the editors went one way and half the other, both halves could survive quite well. Well, there is one piece of critical property, I lied. The name, which then means the nameservers.
In the end, this must be faced, as a Foundation issue. Should there be one repository of "the sum of all human knowledge," or should there be many, each operating independently, developing different systems? All evolution teaches us that a single centralized asset is highly vulnerable and will ultimately be corrupted.
Fission, though, isn't possible without coherence, we've seen again and again that spin-off projects started by no more than a handful of editors discontented with Wikipedia dysfunction, don't have the support, generally, to survive.
If the community became coherent, it might not need to fission! There is no way to know in advance.
The mission of Wikipedia requires methods of finding consensus, but finding consensus is notoriously difficult, and facilitating consensus is a special skill, a profession. Wiki process for consensus-building was never created in a way that would allow efficient and reliable operation.
And those who understand how precarious the whole project is becoming, and who are attached to its success, are terrified at losing valuable administrators, whom they imagine are crucial to continued operation. When the cabal is looking at a dispute between an admin with 100,000 edits, considered crucial for the operation of certain areas of activity, and an editor, perhaps an SPA, with maybe a thousand edits, whom will they avoid offending?
The problem, of course, is that by becoming dependent upon that admin, the cabal has sacrificed neutrality, which was mission-critical. There would be ways to far more widely distribute the tasks that maintain the wiki, to make its operation far more efficient and sustainable, but ... trying to implement these typically runs into fierce resistance, most of all from the cabal, for its value to the project is dependent upon project inefficiency, and they believe that distributing power more widely would wreck the place.
Yes, it's stupid. It burns out the cabal admins and editors. But mostly they don't realize that until it's too late. When they burn out, they blame, on the one hand, the "trolls" and "vandals" and "pov-pushers" who, they think, made their work hell. And, on the other, they blame the rest of the community for not seeing things their way, for not always crushing these enemies of the wiki, i.e., whomever they are upset with at the moment.
WMC, having dominated for years, is now bitter and contemptuous of the powers-that-be on Wikipedia. He's far from the only one to go through this cycle.