Mon 27th February 2012, 3:57am
QUOTE(Herschelkrustofsky @ Sun 26th February 2012, 9:06pm)
When Will first got involved at the LaRouche articles and I was still editing, he fell in with SlimVirgin and Cberlet. I remember a moment when he proposed some sort of reasonable compromise, to achieve "consensus" and it seemed also because he had an impulse toward fairness. SlimVirgin gave him a pretty stern public dressing down, and I think he got the idea that if he wanted to run with the big dogs, he would have to lose the scruples.
I've seen this before time and time again.
To switch topic areas, there used to be a lot of fights between Polish and Lithuanian editors. Which, if you know anything about the history of the two countries is weird as hell because that's two countries which were always friendly, helped each other out and shared a lot of common culture. There was a dispute about Vilinius during the interwar period but seriously, if you got two countries next to each other there will be SOME dispute sooner or later. So you'd figure a similar atmosphere would prevail on Wikipedia - general cooperation and collaboration, perhaps punctuated by occasional flare ups of disagreements.
On the other hand, you got Poland and Ukraine. Going back to at least the 16th century it's a history of conflict. True, the conflict was multi sided with Ukrainians caught in between Poland and Russia so some times making alliances of convenience with one or another. But it is more or less historical antagonism. And when Poland was on top (before 19th century, in the interwar period) the government would oppress the Ukrainians. In turn when the Ukrainians had a chance they struck back at the Poles. So you'd figure that the way this would manifest itself on Wikipedia is through constant clashes between Polish and Ukrainian editors.
But the way it played out is totally opposite. There's a sea of bad blood between Lithuanian and Polish editors on Wikipedia. There's actually a good amount of good will between Ukrainian and Polish editors. Why?
Back in the day, the first Lithuanian editors who showed up on Wikipedia were extremist neo-Nazi fucks and they poisoned the atmosphere - back in 2004 or 2005 or whatever - enough so that that still persists. At the same time, the Ukrainian editors there in the beginning just happened to be reasonable people. So you got what was a "simple problem" turn into an ongoing 6 year battleground and what was a "complicated problem" turn into... well, it hasn't been perfect but it's all been stuff that reasonable people can talk about.
The lesson here is that with Wikipedia stuff that starts out as "slightly bad" very quickly turns into "perennial problem" and at some point it just cannot be solved easily. The mistake would be to think - based on my example above - that the situation is symmetric, that if stuff starts out "slightly good" it becomes an oasis of peace and love and hippie shit. The fact is that the stuff that starts out as "slightly good" might improve over time but that situation is always very unstable. It takes one or two nasty people to flip it to the "slightly bad" situation and after that it pretty much deteriorates exponentially. So for situations which are "slightly good" it's always a constant effort to keep it that way and not have it collapse onto itself.
The same idea can be generalized to Wikipedia articles as a whole. It's easy to fuck up an existing good article - it just takes not enough people paying attention to it. It's hard as hell to fix bad articles. So there is a general tendency for both Wikipedia articles, and Wikipedia atmosphere to depreciate over time, at what is probably an accelerating rate. The whole thing is set up to privilege trolls, idiots, agenda editors (as long as they don't make it too obvious, or edit in areas no one cares about), and sociopathic personalities.
And when you are confronted with these, given that you've managed to stick around long enough not to get your ass banned and you know how the culture works, the temptation to use the unwritten rules of the site to your advantage is quite great. Originally it's mostly just to save yourself some trouble with dealing with annoying assholes. But then that goes to your head and you start seeing yourself as infallible and getting off on winning these battle grounds, no matter the means - and that's where you get folks like Will Beback. I'm sure that back in the ol' days he arrived as a person who really wanted to do good.
Anyway, to finish the story - there was one Lithuanian editor, Lokyz, that I actually liked because he was a smart guy with lots to contribute and when he first showed up he seemed like a reasonable person - he would offer "compromises" discuss things, he knew his shit on a lot of topics, etc. But then he fell in with the crazy guys and gradually lost it. It didn't serve him well in the end - he got blocked, unblocked, topic banned etc. that whole downward spiral - a lot of times because he was egged on by his friends who were just smart enough to leave the scene when the admins got ready to slap out the blocks, but he wasn't. Precisely because deep down he probably was a decent well meaning guy he got totally played by his "friends". Of course once he got crazy, the Polish editors, given that this was a battleground, took advantage of it and filed reports on him and contributed to his sanctions - why should anyone WANT to put up with this stuff?
I was in some ways a part of it - and that's the "staring into the abyss" stuff that Wikipedia makes you do. There's really only two, if you're lucky, three options:
You let the abyss in. You employ the dirty tactics that work so well, all of course in the name of a good cause. You get your way... though Will's be-banning might suggest that's not so much of a viable strategy anymore... though I doubt it - it's an individual that got banned. The structure and the atmosphere is still very much in place.
You reject the abyss. Wikipedia Review or the Purgatory of "banned but want to get unbanned" editors is over that way ---->
You tip toe on the edge and try not to fall over either way. On one side, you always risk the subjective danger that in fact you have already fallen over to the "any means necessary" "ends justify the means" way but of course given how this shit works psychologically, if you HAVE fallen over there's no way you will know yourself. And on the other side you say what you think, try to be honest and straight up and always risk the danger of the idiot admin around the corner banning you (the Malleus, strategy I guess).
Either way the way that Wikipedia works right now is that it both makes crazies out of normal people AND constantly deteriorates in terms of quality and what it's suppose to be.