Talk:Task force/Wikipedia Quality
Threads to date have been summarized (see Archive 1).
This may help in summarizing our progress and reaching conclusions.
Yes, anonymous editing again. (I've cross posted this a couple of places.) I've been really skeptical of this, because I believe in openness, almost as much as I believe in privacy. But I found some new evidence that is worth weighing:
I did a lot of positive work as an anon/IP. But I was never treated that well. Definitely never became integrated into the community. Once I slipped into my username, I understood why. An IP feels like a ghost -- a username gives you the faintest outline of a person. And people were much more welcoming and supportive. I became part of a dialog and contributed more. And enjoyed contributing more. ... but I've never wanted to force anyone to sign up a user name if they wanted to edit... until now?
Honestly, if we want people to have a better first experience with Wikipedia, and users have better experiences than IPs... this starts to make more and more sense. The expert in the interview also seems to think it leads to less frustration for experienced users, and better content overall.
Right now on ru.wp we are running a vote on whether anonymous article creating (not editing!!!) should be discontinued, and it looks like the suggestion is going to be voted down despite the factual evidence presented that most of the articles created by ips is the speedy deletion material. They have of course all kinds of arguments like "creating inequality", "undermining the basic principles" and "nobody invited you to be an admin, please do not complain or quit" which I am sure must be familiar in English Wikipedia as well. Discontinuing anonymous editing at this stage is a no-go, I believe.
I am strongly in favor of anonymous and pseudonymous editing, but I think allowing unregistered users to create articles is a drain on administrator time and should be avoided.
There are disadvantages to editing as an IP, but there can also be advantages. Most of them are of the "no pain, no gain" variety and have to do with the ability to determine truth without knowing authorship. Also, privacy is important for people who have been threatened.
Truthfully, the "privacy" advantage of an IP is overrated. Do you really want people to be able to see that you're operating using AT&T/BellSouth, from Richardson, TX?
But I agree with the "no pain" assessment. If you've always been an IP and never been a user, it's hard to get sucked into the drama.
Unless they think it will improve the community more in the long run, compared to some of the editors who would be demoralized (and even leave) right now.
... so yeah, you're probably right.
I too support is the "logged in only editing". But if anonymous users starts making accounts and do bad edits then ? Also to note that nice users will also suffer.
It would be wonderful if someone were willing to do an experiment on disallowing some forms of anonymous editing. I'm glad to see that Russian Wikipedia is at least putting it to vote. (Have others considered that as well?)
Strategy wiki is, in its own right, a project, and we could certainly consider running an experiment like this. If we were to do this, what metrics should we track? And what metrics could we point to now that would argue for disallowing certain forms of anonymous editing?
The conclusion to the discussion in Russian Wikipedia was drawn yesterday - to keep the option of anonymous article creation.
Here, on one hand, I do not see any point in allowing anonymous editing, on the other hand, a number of anonymous comments have been added to the treads, which means some users have chosen not to register for whatever reason.
We'd want to compare IPs to new users, and look for differences on a few metrics:
- Reversions (e.g.: are non-anonymous users less likely to be reverted?)
- Number of talk page edits, or time of first talk page edit (E.g.: are non-anonymous users more likely to be drawn into community-building activity?)
- RVVs -- Reversions due to vandalism (e.g.: are non-anonymous users less likely to engage in vandalism?)
- Blocks / bans / incidents (e.g.: are non-anonymous users less likely to engage in disruptive activity?)
The jackpot metric would be whether new users are more likely to continue editing than anonymous users. But because anonymous users have no consistent IP or username, it would be impossible to measure if they are editing for a long period of time. I wish we could figure out a way to get at this, though, in some roundabout way.
It's a perennial proposal and is always rejected.
I'd reject it too, off hand. But that's without any factual basis. I'm very interested to see what metrics follow from logged-in only editing.
For anonymous creation, we collected some statistics. Apparently, 55 to 75% of articles newly created by anonymous users are speedy deletion material, but the percentage is the same for the users who just registered. In other words, the usefulness depends only on the experience of the user, not on whether he/she is logged in. There are of course other issues like for instance impossibility to communicate with a dyunamical ip and others.
Do you have a link to that data? I'd like to have it bookmarked for further reference.
That's one nail in the coffin... suggests to me that trying logged-in only editing isn't worth the trouble.
Would Russian be ok? Otherwise, I can translate it, but the translation will take some time.
Now also read Eric's post below. I will try to translate quickly.
I'd really love to read that as well... and since the amount of Russian I know will fit in a thimble (mostly names of food), a quickie translation would be great... even if you just ran it through google translate for a first pass...?
A translation would help. But even just the raw numbers should be understandable, no? Either way, we'd appreciate any information you can give us.
This is great stuff. As Bodnotbod pointed out, it's a perennial proposal, and it's also been proposed here twice:
Would people here like to take a pass at:
- Merging the above two proposals
- Adding case study information (for example, Yaroslav, it would be great if you would copy and paste your posts about Russian Wikipedia's statistics and votes on the issue)
- Start brainstorming the metrics we should use to evaluate the possibility. Randomran, your list is a great start, and it would be great to copy it into a merged proposal and build on it.
If we can get a strong proposal written up, we can (and should) definitely consider implementing this proposal on strategy wiki.
Actually, that is completely wrong. These two proposals aim at something different completely, namely a move towards using real names (and with real personal data). Thus a move towards converting Wikipedia into Citizendium.
There was a proposal towards logged-in only editing: Proposal:Create a reputation system and require logging-in to edit.
But it is not wise to mix up these two (quite separate) issues. - Brya 17:56, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification, Brya. In general, I'd rather work off of an existing proposal than create a new one, but if the modifications are going to dramatically change the tenor of the original proposal, then we would need to engage with the author on the Talk page first.
If we need to, we should create a separate proposal.
PS. Wikipedia could be clearer in the information supplied about IP-numbers, and the consequences of showing these.
Also, it is not a given that the present policy will be allowable in future. Under Dutch law there are severe restrictions to publishing personal data, and this includes IP-numbers. It is a fairly new law and there is as yet no legal track record; so far everybody is ignoring it, but if somebody took Wikipedia to court to force a stop to showing IP-numbers they are very likely to win. - Brya 18:12, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
I'm not certain about that, Brya - my understanding is that the WMF operates under US law and that we don't fall under the jurisdiction of the Dutch courts.
Of course US laws apply, but Dutch laws applies to Dutch citizens working on the Dutch Wikipedia and certainly also to the Dutch Chapter and any servers on Dutch soil. Other countries may have similar laws, so it is likely that from a global perspective the legal picture may be quite complicated.
Forbidding to publish IP-numbers does not have all that many consequences, as each IP-number can be assigned a random number, which can be published as long as the WMF keeps it a close secret which random number belongs with what IP-number.
Actually this may have more consequences for logged-in users. Although they are promised that a username guarantees a degree of protection, their IP-numbers are traceable: if IP-numbers were kept secret this would make a substantial difference. - Brya 05:24, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
I want to tell something:
1. If we will block anonymous users they will create new account and start editing.
2. So for that we will only allow auto-confirmed users which means no more new users will come. Gradually, constructive editing will decline which is root of our success.
3. There are many good anonymous users and they will be also blocked including the good faith ones also. Most viewers are anonymous, and gradually, we will also lose popularity.
4. If you want to keep good anonymous users, it will create a havoc among the admins for blocking only those anonymous which do bad edits. If we will block good anonymous also then there will no problem, as we will remove the system of anonymous users directly, but good faith and constructive anonymous editors will be gone.
5. If you will allow only half articles or some to be edited by new users or anonymous, it will definitely lead to edit wars in these articles.
I saw an interesting post. I'm not sure that I agree with it, but I wanted to relay it to the rest of you to see what you think. I think it shows an important challenge you will face in fixing controversial articles.
I can see why it's tempting, but I disagree. I don't see anything in that post that would prevent a capable user stating "Rashid Khalidi says this, and Anita Shapira says that".
Again I emphasize, our job is not to resolve the scientific dispute, but to present where knowledge is currently at. Saying "It is hotly disputed and there are multiple views in this area" is exactly what we should do, if that's the case.
Weight and balance are the usual problems in such disputes. How much weight should view X be given? Is view Y mainstream or fringe? (Sourcing disputes are a bit easier to resolve)
My acid test of the issues in the Israel-Palestine disputes is more cynical. It goes a bit like this:
- Suppose we took all the source material used in these articles, and gave them to a team of 20 users with no connection to Israel or Palestine, who were used to high quality editing approaches and content disputes in unrelated fields like pseudoscience, beer, indigenous rights in Paraguay, paleobiology, laser welding, English literature... and we asked them to look at the I-P topic area. Would they be able to reach a consensus on some kind of fair representation of the views and their balance?
- Answer: probably. Mainly because they'd be considering evidence and seeking NPOV and balance, looking at sources and reliability, and identifying issues of fair representation of facts, as opposed to fighting like kids over it.
In other words, expecting people "too close to the trees" to solve a problem is itself the problem. This is a classic case where we do actually have the resources and can solve the problem fairly well, "outside the box".
Yeah, call me naive, but I really think that as a neutral party I could solve things by saying "this source says this, that source says that, and it's disputed."
- You're naive.
The link is to a dispute I resolved exactly that way. It's not the only one I've done that on. What's interesting is the article's been stable ever since, and that was 2 years ago.
Our job is to characterize the views, including the (genuine) dispute if any. Not to take sides on it, nor to try and decide the answer for the academic population. That makes it a lot easier. People just don't think that saying "we don't know which" or "it's in dispute" is a valid option. But it is.
We are amazing editors ;) Do you think that it's a product of having some experience with working on quality articles... or do you think the skillset comes from something else? The reason I ask is because it would be useful to train other editors with those skills, or at least be able to identify those editors who "naturally" possess those skills.
For some it's intuitive and commonsense I guess. That said, most people learn behaviors and skills from their peer group, and their peer group's expectations and approaches. The point I'm making is that even difficult disputes like Palestine-Israel that reflect very troubled real-world issues, are resolvable in article terms. We have the tools. We just aren't using them fully.
To summarize these are the tools likely to be sufficient for most disputes like that.
- A substantial population of users whom we can broadly trust to edit with good understanding and regard for core Wikipedia editing principles on any article (including self management of COI and interactive behavior).
- A very clear understanding of NPOV, including that NPOV does not aim to solve the academic or real-world dispute, but only to fairly represent it.
- (Optional but useful) a couple of specialists or experts (or experts on both sides), who, while not involved in the dispute, can be used as external resources to help where needed (eg source material, identifying major/fringe views in the field, etc).
- The ability to remove all editors who don't have this kind of proven community recognition of their editing approach to the talk page, so that those who do can listen to them, consider the views represented -- and then act and discuss to a high standard the points arising.
In other words, global Wikiprojects (and their ability to identify and collect expertize)... trusted/senior users... core editing principles applied strictly... and a formal dispute resolution agreement (eg Arbcom or community decision) to let these users deal with the content for a few months, long enough to work it out and let issues stabilize, with others restricted to the talk page. After 3 or 4 months, review and decide if the restriction should be relaxed.
I think you'll agree all are within our reach. I can't say if we have the will to solve them, but they are achievable. I don't see any reason to make excuses why we can't resolve these disputes. We have the means to do so without changing our current ethos. We just aren't using them fully.
As a note on this:
I have commented in the past on enwiki, that edit warring is an intensive job. If greatly disrupted, or the article is "clean", it's hard for an edit warrior to "get back into the war" because it's a lot more obvious when they do. Preventing article editing for a few months while users the community feels can be trusted to act well address the content issue, would make edit warring really obvious on return to community editing, and normal adminship could probably sort it out.
I agree with a lot of what you're saying. NPOV is more reachable than people think, but it just requires someone who is really committed to being neutral.
But I'm not sure your idea for "mass acquisition" of senior editor status fits with that. If it's something that's acquired on a mass level, then I think even some of the good faith I-P editors with a strong opinion could still become "senior". Not all POV warriors come carrying a torch and a gun. Many don't even realize they're warriors, which is what makes it so easy to slip into systemic bias. In fact, systemic bias is (by definition) not the fault of a specific editor acting in bad faith, but a mass of editors acting in good faith.
What we're calling for is closer to some kind of "informal moderator" status. A status parallel to adminship but focusing on content disputes and quality problems. In addition to senior editors, but a higher standard.
You're missing a key point still: "A substantial population"
The principle is not that we delegate I-P (or fringe science, or others) to a couple of users to sort out. We still use the classic crowdsource model, but the crowd is of users (from all topics and areas) that the community has agreed consistently edit to core principles and a high standard, including in dialog. Not "just a handful of moderators". Those users whom the community has not yet formally agreed edit and interact with a consistently high standard can still participate, but stick to the talk page.
In that editing environment, a user who is tendentious or greatly biased, or a subtle warrior, won't stand much chance. They, and any users who obstruct good editing, will rather visibly be bringing their own standing as a "senior editor" into question (which is a high barrier to regain if lost)... because the peer group of editors is other users who are acting to a high standard -- and recognize/expect the same.
(In a practical sense, if a quality mark takes time and effort to acquire, and is readily lost if abused, then those acquiring it will want to not lose it. Gaming the system is a lot harder in a group of high quality peers who know what the norms are and what is expected.)
Or for certain issues we even may consider delegating several senior editors to resolve the dispute, making sure of course that none of them has been involved in the conflict and none of them has possible issues with systemic bias. I see it as a viable option.
I'm not sure I agree that's how it will work out in practice. But your ideals certainly make logical sense. I think this would still be a big step forward, and it's the kind of thing that can be re-assessed once we've put it all into action.
In a way, all we have to do is propose the recognition of such editors (which makes sense for many reasons not just this one item). The rest can almost be left to individual communities to consider. We don't need to force this area of usage.
In other words, if the recognition of such users is there, and the global WikiProject structure and referee panels exist, and a major dispute is ongoing, the community will have these extra tools to use and at some point will probably decide to do so. Mention it as an ancillary idea or "possible extra use" for those communities wishing to try it. Then leave it to them, once they have the tools needed.
Yeah, I actually have a bit of faith in the community to adapt. The problem is that the community has a hard time with big changes, which are sometimes necessary. But once we have the senior editors and baseline standards in place, we can leave it to the community to refine them so that they meet their intended purpose.
For me, addressing that "hard time with big changes" is something our report needs to broach head-on.
I think that this is a key post. I agree that if this plan were to be implemented it may very well work as advertised. However, I see no real indication that it is "within reach" or particularly "achievable". Certainly, it is a solution that is envisionable, but anything beyond that will depend entirely upon the execution. Drawing up a plan is one thing; many organizations and governments have archives full of plans that would have worked if only they could or would have been implemented. The core values have always been there, for anybody to read and to apply; they have just not been followed universally or even commonly. In practice there is considerable resistance to actually following the core values.
Speaking of core values, I quite liked the idea of a brand statement. Adopting a brand statement would be relatively easy to implement; that looks achievable to me (the earlier proposed statement was probably a bit long for practical use, but essentially said it all). - Brya 03:49, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
We cannot force the solution for everything. Our job is to point to suggestions as we presently can. If our recommendations happen to provide some core tools that are likely to be needed or useful in addressing heavy duty POV wars, and we also note this and provide an analysis how they might be used for that effect (if a project wishes), then this is likely to be the best we can do for now.
There's nothing preventing a further review in a while.
And yes, agree in principle.
Actually, this Task force cannot force any solution for anything. Indeed, suggestions are the best this Task force can do. Providing tools is out of reach of this Task force, at most it can make suggestions for developing tools. However, actually implementing said tools needs "higher powers" swinging into action. - Brya 05:50, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
Yes, agree. We cannot "force" anything; we can only make what we hope are insightful recommendations.
The page that failed on nlwiki (English translation) looks like it was a proposal to recognize topic experts (PhD's and the like?) -- "A special editor is someone who is designated by others as a specialist in a particular knowledge" ... "A special editor is basically just special regarding his/her knowledge. His/her other skills do not matter...". Under that idea the user was designated a specialist (or expert) in a given field in their on-wiki editing. We also seem to have decided not to go down that route, for various reasons, so this is reasonable corroboration, though we did consider what ways experts and expertise could be best fitted within the classic Wikimedia ethos (given their specific needs and situations) and have found what looks a more solid answer.
Yes, the details are different, but that is the point: it is all in the details. The mere idea, by itself, is not likely to get far. It will make all the difference how it is implemented. - Brya 07:33, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
The recommendations of this taskforce will be likely to include a fair bit of backup material, including specifics of proposed approach. Too much is specific "this way, not that way" to avoid providing such detail. So yes, agree 100%
I just happened on this thread, and can't tell you how delighted I am to see that a post of mine has generated so much interest. And since I am the guy who lit the fire, let me add a bit to the flames:
FT2 suggests that a POV dispute can be simply resolved by writing "Rashid Khalidi says this and Anita Shapira says that." But that same information can take on a completely different meaning when written, "Anita Shapira says this and Rashid Khalidi says that." Order, emphasis, and nuances of language are the substance of these disputes, and not the specific content.
I, like many of those responding to this thread, am a pretty senior editor. Moreover, in the Israel-Palestinian arena, I am one of the very few editors that enjoy the respect of both sides in the dispute. And I assure you that, even with the most creative suggestions, and the most arduous and tactful negotiations, I have been unable to resolve the key POV disputes occuring in that area.
My argument that there is no such thing as neutrality in life-and-death struggles such as this one is perceived to be, was stated explicitly by the Palestinian director of a music school in East Jerusalem. Struggling with the scarcest of resources and a lack of qualified teachers, he refused to enlist help from Israelis, many of whom would gladly help out. Why, I asked him - music is one area where we can be neutral, where we can look beyond the conflict, at real human values. "In this conflict, there is no such thing as being neutral," he said. "If you are not with us, you are against us."
To suggest that we know better - that we editors can be really neutral - is not only naive, it is arrogant. --Ravpapa 14:49, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Last edit: 17:53, 8 March 2010
And moreover, if some of you are confident that you can resolve these issues, I suggest you give it a try. There is an ongoing dispute at w:Jerusalem on the English Wikipedia, over whether Jerusalem can be accurately called the capital of Israel. It is a dispute that, so far, has defied the best of English Wikipedia's administrators and negotiators. Perhaps you will succeed where others - including myself - have failed.
You propose a two-article solution. I'm not really comfortable with that. But to me, if you can solve the problem with two articles, then you can solve the problem with two sections in the same article.
Two sections of the article that say the same thing? Remember, in my suggestion, the rule is that the two versions of the article must have exactly the same content. Every fact appearing in one must appear in the other as well. The only difference between the two versions is in the presentation, not in the information.
Then I'm not sure we couldn't do two presentations in one version. "According to X1, Y1. According to X2, Y2."
"FT2 suggests that a POV dispute can be simply resolved by writing "Rashid Khalidi says this and Anita Shapira says that." But that same information can take on a completely different meaning when written, "Anita Shapira says this and Rashid Khalidi says that." Order, emphasis, and nuances of language are the substance of these disputes, and not the specific content."
Exactly. The POV warriors have already agreed all of the substantive differences and are reduced to quibbling over semantics. That the scope of the disagreement is this narrow is IMHO a success for the wiki process. Options for resolving this last issue are:
- pick one side. The sides are so close together that this would almost have to be at random.
- let the POV warriors continue to discuss this till the cows come home (i.e. forever). It does no harm and keeps them occupied. Outside intervention being limited to enforcing civility and process.
- Create two separate point of view articles which gradually drift farther and farther apart as each gets captured by extremists since no one else cares enough to fight them.
I would pick option 2 - the current system. Like Churchill said about democracy "It's the worst system, apart from all the others".Template:O Rly
I suppose that from a quality standpoint, it's not terrible to have an article that's deadlocked on a fine issue like "do we say 'X says Y is true' or do we just say 'Y is true'?" But from a community health standpoint, these kinds of debates really make Wikipedia a crappy place to do work, and drive out all but the most stubborn editors. Even if they're civil and not rude, sheer stubbornness is enough to drive people out.
Can we find a better way?
Reading the responses to my idea, I understand the reticence to the two-thread solution. I just want to clarify a couple of things about the proposal:
- The pro and con versions cannot, in my proposal, drift further and further apart. Because the rules of engagement are that every documented fact in one article must be included in the other. You can bury it in a footnote, you can print it in small type at the end of the article, but it has to be there. I trust the opposing editors to insist on this.
- I find our labeling of editors "POV warriors" incorrect and offensive. It is true that there are editors whose sole objective is to slant articles. But the majority of editors I have encountered in article battlegrounds are not fighting for their private points of view. They are fighting for their own understanding of neutrality. It is important for us, as senior editors, to understand and appreciate that. Denigrating editors involved in article wars is only exacerbating the problem, not helping.
- The parallel article approach is, first and foremost, a tactic, and not an objective. If two opposing editors have each written their own versions of an article, and both versions contain exactly the same information, there is a solid basis for negotiation on a single version. In a lot of edit wars, the rationale for this or that version becomes obscured in a cloud of enmity, where sometimes there are simple and imaginative ways to resolve problems. By having opposing versions that are completely agreeable to the sides (each version to its own side), there is a good starting place to negotiate an agreed version. I don't think this will always be possible, but in some cases it may well be a springboard for agreement.
I've participated in mediation, and one tactic that they use IS to have two different editors write the article/section in two different ways. And it is definitely a good way to start a negotiation.
I'm not worried about offending POV warriors. Frankly, I'd be glad if they left. Somewhere between this postmodern "you and I have two different understandings of neutrality", there is actually a neutral way to present the material if people can get off of their soapbox. I hope that one day I could build enough support to make it very very hard for a POV to enjoy Wikipedia, forcing them to adapt or leave. But in the meantime, I'm not going to go out of my way to accommodate their battleground mentality. There are opinionated people who can get over themselves, and then there are POV warriors. The worst threat to community health isn't one side or another, but everyone who dogmatically insists upon their side.
The difference between a POV warrior and a fair-minded but opinionated editor is this: the POV warrior wants to excise the opposing view. The fair editor wants to include both views, though he may want to present them in a way that makes clear which view is correct.
An example of this is the ongoing war over the lead of w:Jerusalem. ProPalestinian editors argue that that the lead should contain an explicit statement that half of Jerusalem is occupied, and that its status as Jerusalem's capital is disputed by almost all nations of the world. The ProIsraelis point out that the issues of occupation and status are amply discussed, including an extensive footnote in the lead, and a section in the article. None of the editors involved in this dispute wants to remove information supporting the opposing view; the entire dispute is one of presentation. None of these editors, in my mind, are POV warriors. That doesn't make the battle any less bloody.
I am curious to know what you think: should the lead of the article contain an explicit statement about the dispute over its status? Or, in other words, which camp are you in?
For some of these debates, it really would be easiest if people could acknowledge that readers could figure out the correct view. We could present all of the facts and all the reasonable opinions from a neutral point of view, and let the content speak for itself.
I think you raise a pretty fair distinction between someone who is a POV warrior and someone who is relatively fair minded, though. It's just that we're now talking about very fine and subtle distinctions -- arguing about what the lead should contain and with what presentation. I don't mean to trivialize the significance of the I-P debate, but when you remember that our goal is to write an encyclopedia it's hard not to roll your eyes.
I honestly think these issues are small enough that they can be settled by the community. If it's small enough that you can solve it by having two versions of the article with only minor differences -- one where the statement is included in the lead, and one where the statement is included in the body -- then clearly this is something that could be settled if it were put to mandatory mediation.
This thread is going nowhere, and I know why: because my proposal, which may or may not be any good, does not address the central quality problems of articles on disputed topics. And these problems are two:
First, the disputes around these articles lead to a shift of emphasis from the main to the marginal. The dynamics of this shift are clearly visible in articles like w:Judaization of the Galilee. There is a dispute going on there about the background section: the proIsraelis want this section to show that Israel acquired the territory of the Galilee after a war in which its existence was threatened. The ProPalestinians want the section to emphasize that under the Partition plan the Galilee was never supposed to be part of Israel. Because of this disagreement, both sides have been adding citations and detail supporting their positions, resulting in a Background section that is inflated far beyond its importance or relevance.
This distortion is characteristic of many disputed articles. w:Mohammad Amin al-Husayni is so full of polemics on picayune that you need a Rashi commentary to understand it.
Not only do disputed issues get disproportionate attention, entire topics become inflated far beyond their importance. A prime example is w:Muhammad al-Durrah incident. That article, about a Palestinian boy who got shot during the second intifada, is 100 kB long. The article on the w:1948 Arab–Israeli War is 87 kB long. Was the al-Durrah affair really so important that it deserves so much attention?
I know Wikipedia is not like other encyclopedias, but in the eyes of the reader, the amount of space you devote to a topic is seen as an indication of the topic's importance. This is a fundamental distortion of truth inherent in the way Wikipedia is edited.
The second problem is article spawning. Proponents of a particular political position try to multiply the number of Wikipedia articles supporting their side. The Pro-Palestinians have, for example, written 153 articles on Arab villages depopulated as a result of the conflict. Almost all these articles are stubs, and are likely to remain so, as very little information is available about them. The pro-Israelis, not to be outdone, have 67 articles to their credit on Israeli settlements depopulated during the conflict.
I am not saying that each of these villages is not, theoretically, a legitimate topic for an article. As things stand, though, there is no question that almost all of the information in these articles could have been presented more succinctly and accessibly in other forms - for example in a table, showing the village size, population, date and circumstances of the depopulation. In those few cases where there is more information than this included in the article, a separate article would certainly be in order.
But I contend that the objective of these articles is not to present the information in the way that is most accessible, but rather in the way the maximizes the propaganda value.
I have no solution for these two problems, which, I believe, have a profound impact on the quality and reliability of Wikipedia's coverage of disputed topics.
Yeah, this is a really tough problem. It's one thing to settle an article. It's another thing to settle a policy on how to handle certain articles. But there's very little to stop someone from creating a new article if they can find one or two sources and carve out something barely distinct. With the most inflammatory content expelled from dhimmi, a group of editors managed to keep it alive at dhimmitude. Not even saying that the second article shouldn't exist, but we really just don't know how to handle these kinds of spin offs. We have an entire article called criticism of Facebook. I think there's a place for this kind of criticism, but I can't help but wonder if the very framing of the article (as a place for criticism only) is a major threat to neutrality...
And I really do think that neutrality is a big community health problem too.
I don't have many answers on this issue except to empower the community to resolve them.
(edit: i realize I can't link to Wikipedia articles here, so I'll leave it to others to look them up if they want.)
I agree with everything you have said (including your criticism of my use of the phrase POV warrior - I was wrong) right up to your final sentence:
...these two problems, which, I believe, have a profound impact on the quality and reliability of Wikipedia's coverage of disputed topics.
If articles on controversial matters are longer, better researched and more carefully reviewed than articles on less controversial matters then this does "have a profound impact on the quality and reliability of Wikipedia's coverage" but the impact is entirely positive and should be welcomed and celebrated.
If "imbalance" between articles is a problem it is not a big one in the scheme of things and has minimal effect on readers provided the treatment in each article is balanced - which it generally is.
- formally thank the tireless editors who have worked so long and hard to arrive at a fair presentation of the facts in these Palestine and Israel related articles
- congratulate them on the level of success they have achieved so far
- encourage them to continue to engage together to resolve the remaining outstanding issues and the other issues that are likely to arise in the future
- hope they will continue working to improve the articles.
These articles may never be perfect or even feature quality but they are already good and useful and I suspect they are already among the best articles on these subjects anywhere. Read the Muhammad al-Durrah article for an example. Any attempt to "solve this problem" is, in my opinion, far more likely to make it worse.
I just ran a reader survey on five articles that I wrote or had a hand in editing. I found the results to be extremely enlightening and helpful in my work as an editor, and also as an important input to policy disputes in the project I am working on. You can see the results of the survey here.
I performed the survey by creating the survey form at www.surveymonkey.com, and attaching a link at the top of each article (see, for example, this revision of one of the articles.
As an editor, I would love a tool that I could use to develop a survey with article-specific questions, attach it to the end of an article, and analyze the responses.
In numerous other forums, I have pointed out that Wikipedia is an editor-centric, rather than reader-centric, institution. All the mechanisms and rules of behavior are designed to create cooperation of a community of editors. In this dynamic, the reader is most often shunted aside; to the extent that, when I proposed my survey, there were editors who clearly didn't want to know what their readers were thinking.
This is something that has to change if Wikipedia is to move forward, and that change will occur only when features of the editing environment support the change. That is why I think a tool like this would be invaluable, not only to me but to the entire Wikipedia weltschaum.
I worry about people gaming the survey. It's easier to measure editor responses and protect us from sockpuppets and canvassing. But with readers, it's far easier to mount a campaign somewhere and just have a bunch of IP addresses add their input. Maybe it wouldn't be an issue on articles about classical music. But for political issues, or religious issues, or for promotion... you could see a whole mass of people trying to push the quantity and quality of content towards that.
I didn't envision this as something that would appear universally on all articles. Rather, an option that editors could use to get feedback from readers if they wanted it.
As for gaming and canvassing, hard for me to see how that would be a problem. If an editor saw that dozens of readers were signing up to urge him to support Obama, he could always ignore them, and shut down the survey.
I suggest that you take a look, if you haven't already, at the survey we did on the project, and see for yourself how powerful a tool it could be.
Yeah, I agree it has the potential to do a lot of good. I wouldn't fight it from happening. The key would be finding ways to prevent its abuse.
A really useful tool as a sensor but as any sensor we should define what it's measuring and make sure that the sensor isn't disturbing the measured system.
If you see a sudden peak in article daily visits right after you start a survey then you have a problem.
That's a good point. I'm all for getting more reader feedback (and I like the survey idea), but stuff like what KrebMarkt mentions will help us contain the negative sideeffects and abuse.
Ravpapa's survey is really interesting: I'm glad he did it.
It seems to me that any mechanism we use for gathering reader input will be gameable: that's inherent and unavoidable. But I don't believe we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I think there is real and obvious value in gathering assessments of quality WRT specific articles: it's easy to imagine how we could use that information to drive quality up.
So ultimately -- if gathering reader feedback brings us 100 units of value, but 10 of those units need to be discarded as useless because they're tainted (e.g., controversial articles such as Creationism, Abortion, Scientology) .... we would still be 90 units ahead of where we are today. Which would be great.
FWIW, in my past workplaces (mostly newsrooms) we have tended to use two kinds of quality assessment tools.
1) Quantitative data, collected via survey/questionnaire. The downside of survey/questionnaire data is that it yields non-expert assessments: basically, it gives you people's opinions. But it makes up for its lack of quality by giving you volume -- it scales. You can gather data quickly if you have a large enough readership, and mostly the data is pretty good. You don't get nuance, but you get the basics. With quant/opinion data, you don't want to try to make the data do more than it's capable of. Which means you would 1) aim to collect information that the general public can actually give you -- e.g., you would probably not ask highly specific editorial questions such as "are the sources high-quality" or "are there sufficient citations," and 2) you would interpret the data that comes in as opinion rather than fact -- e.g., "this article seems fair" rather than "this article is fair."
2) Qualitative assessments, generally collected via expert panel or focus group. These are higher-quality measures in that you are asking experts to make the assessment, but they don't scale, they are resource-intensive, and vulnerable to skew if the experts are biased. They are good for deep sampling (what Malcolm Gladwell calls thin-slicing). One example of this in our world would be the assessment done of the German and English Wikipedia articles on mathematics, that I believe was presented at the German Wikipedia Academy in Berlin in 2008. In that assessment, a bilingual mathematics professor did a qualitative analysis of German and English Wikipedia math articles, and made several meta-recommendations designed to advise Wikipedians on how to increase the quality of math articles generally. You can't get that kind of information from the survey data.
Ultimately, I think we will need to use both types of measures, because they complement each other. We're using Rate This Article here on the strategy wiki (e.g., at the bottom of this page: http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Proposal:Volunteer_Toolkit), and I would like to see it, or some version of it, adopted for usage across the projects. I don't know where we would begin with qualitative assessments: it strikes me they might be best done ad hoc by people involved with wiki-projects and/or chapters -- as was the case with the example I gave above.
Going further from my previous post.
Surveys around one article should be repeated to see if the results are reproducibles.
Surveys around sets of articles for example Class B article of the English Anime/Manga project won't need to be repeated because they are spread on a large numbers of articles thus errors/issues stand-out more likely.
Things to take account are:
- Adequateness between questions and what is evaluated
- Influence of the questions ordering
- External factors
Very interesting survey, Ravpapa. I think this type of information is very good to have. I do think that readers get less attention than editors when it comes to research, so I'm glad that there is some attention paid to this very important group. Reader feedback on articles is an interesting slice. I'd also like to get a better understanding of the reader -> editor transition. I've seen some academic research on this and we're also gaining some additional texture through the follow-up interviews with people who completed the Former Contributors Survey.
One thing we learned from the Former Contributors Survey is that even our casual users (editors in this case) really like to give us feedback. The overwhelming sentiment from that survey is that these users are a gold mine of information -- they just need to be asked.
Re: limitations of research -- as everyone knows, it's always tricky to find the balance between interpreting research too narrowly vs. too broadly. These types of discussions are exactly what we need to help us negotiate that line. Going forward, maybe we can start these conversations by asking "How can we use this information?" This perspective might help us figure out how to constructively use the data while at the same time keeping an eye on the inherent limitations. Sometimes the answer will be "we can't," which is fine. But other times, we may be able to find an appropriate application of the research that initially escaped noticed.
A specific point about gaming -- I'm not sure if Survey Monkey has this capability, but Limesurvey enables you to restrict survey submissions to one per IP address. While this doesn't prevent the type of gaming described, it does make it a little more difficult.
I'm sure tools and means to make those surveys can be refined to limit abuse.
What i'm wary of is editors making a survey with a biased set of questions for PoV pushing intent and furthering other agenda.
I like that the survey is there as an option, and is only open for a limited duration. It makes it easier to tell if the feedback is the usual set of readers, or if there is a sudden spike in activity aimed at putting undue influence on the survey. I wouldn't want to see a rating system that were there in perpetuity.
Here a "Point" type set of question:
- Is this article informative?
- Is this article interesting?
- Should this article be kept?
@Randomran Surveys are meant to be of limited duration are else it would be pointless because the article evolves thus what is evaluated can have drastically changed between the start of the survey and the end of if if the survey takes too long.
I dunno -- I have a strong bias in favour of rate-this-article functionality on all articles in perpetuity :-)
Imagine all the many uses for that data. It would help us know which articles are poor, so editors could direct their energies towards them. Chapters could develop grant proposals for money to systematically increase quality in categories that rank particularly low. Editors who care about BLPs could identify the lowest-quality ones and dedicate sustained attention to fixing them. Professors could assign their classes to help clean up the 10 worst articles in their subject. If a particular language version was rated overall extremely high, other language versions could try to discern and emulate some of its practices. If a language version were rated particularly low, editors who speak that language could stage a quality improvement campaign helping it. Etc etc etc. The possibilities are endless :-)
I am afraid getting a number of negative ratings of an article would act pretty much demotivating for the principal editor of this article. Definitely, it would act in such a way on me, and it happened to me in the past (for instance, when a bunch of trolls recently coordinated an attack on my FA, even though I knew these are trolls).
Possibility are endless, yea :)
Permanent article rating feature is workable if we can have the rating evolution across time so we can see the difference between earlier ratings and the most recent ones.
I'm a little worried about permanent article rating... but here's a thought...
Most of the benefits of permanent article rating are to flag low quality articles, not to identify high articles. (Just what I'm gathering from looking at Sue's list.) But when it comes to exploits, I'm much more worried about people up-rating a biased article, and then using that as a reason to exclude new contributions (you're lowering the quality). I'm not as worried about people down-rating an article. What's the worst that happens? You force more people to give it their attention.
So instead of a permanent rating system, what we need is a permanent "flag an issue" system? Something that helps us identify areas that need improvement, and cannot be used as a way to hold a bad article in its current form.
I am glad there is interest in my survey. I think that if reader surveying is something we want to encourage, we need to make it part of the wiki environment - otherwise, editors won't do it.
This is not a complicated piece of software to develop, but it is also not a piece of cake. I would like to see a survey builder, which would include a set of standard questions (How old are you, how do you use Wikipedia, how frequently, and so on), a set of general topic questions (what is your relation to music/physics/Shakespearean drama), and a set of article-related questions. Editors could build a survey by picking prewritten optional questions, and by creating their own specific questions (Do you think an infobox would enhance this article?) Question types would be two: text short answer and multiple choice (one choice only, with an option for textual "other" response).
After building the survey, the editor would add a template to the article, with a parameter for the specific survey, and an end date, after which the survey automatically closes and the template switches to something like: "We did a survey of reader responses to this article. You are welcome to see the results here."
Survey results should be stored in an OpenDocs spreadsheet in some area in the Wiki, with an option for the surveytaker to create correlations and to add a textual analysis.
Is that a lot to order?
Creating the survey and results reporting tools are not a big deal and we agree that it can be a good thing. However we are not also blind to how much that feature can missed even if the plus outweights the minus.
So the question isn't whatever to do it but how to do it to limit the possibilities of abuse & screw-ups.
We waited 9 near before Wikipedia created this for brainstorming ;)
Beside your idea caught the attention of Sue Gardner, someone from the Foundation and she seems supportive to it.
If it can be technically done and i think it is so, the remaining hurdle is the modalities of implementation.
Surveys across a category won't be much a problem because the large number of the "experimental set" can balance issue coming from few of them. The issue is survey on one article which can turn awful if people start PoV pushing using it.
I think some kind of short-term survey is good, so long as people realize that the accuracy of the survey can be invalidated by a sudden spike in readership.
There was a lot of negativity to Ravpapa's methods over at EN:WP (see here) but I for one applaud him for his intitiative and original thinking. As I say over there, we really do need "some official process whereby we can determine exactly who our readers are and solicit their opinions of the articles without them having to edit talkpages and us having to trawl those talk pages to collate the data. Some kind of WikiReaders forum perhaps?" It would seem that Ravpapa's basic idea is being considered favourably over here, which is great! Abuse? In what way? If people give their opinions then then they give their opinions, if they don't, they don't... can't see much to go wrong there except perhaps some incivility, oversimplification or overcomplexification etc, things we have to deal with anyway. Especially if a survey is permanently linked to all articles. How about a general forum, though?
Sue's idea of a universal "rate this article" type survey is intriguing, and I think would be very valuable, but there are technical problems that would need to be worked out. The solution of these technical problems would also resolve, to a large extent, the problem of ballot stuffing for controversial articles.
The main technical problem is that, if we want to collect statistics on users, and not just opinions (something I think would be necessary) we have to solve the problem of double counting respondents who rate more than one article. One way to do this would be to collect the URL of the respondent. Then, if the same URL responded to more than one survey, we could count the statistical data only once - or, we could check in real time if the URL had rated an article, and, if so, not display the statistical questions. Either of these solutions requires technical complications.
Statistics on users would be important, not only for our general understanding of our readers, but also for understanding criticisms of articles. For example, we might find that high school students rate an article high, but readers with MAs and higher rate it low.
Collecting the URL of the respondent would also be a defense against ballot-stuffing for controversial articles. If the same URL tries to fill out a survey form for an article a second time, we can simply show him the same form he already filled out. This also enables him to access his answers, and change his mind about his rating of the article.
Another technical problem I foresee is that we would need to identify the articles being rated - not just the specific article, but also the projects and categories. This would enable projects to gather statistics on all their articles. The projects and categories to which an article belongs could, presumably, be collected from the articles.
Ballot stuffing or astro-turfing could indeed be used to try to game the "rate this article" mechanism however I believe the appropriate response to this would be making the details of such a votes open and available so that the editors can better analyse such responses and decide how much weight to give - just as editors do to the votes of non-editors on deletion discussions.
Have the "Rate this article" mechanism at the bottom of every page. Include a box as well where people can leave a comment and a reference (automatically added to the talk page). Include a a link (there at the bottom of the page) to the talk page so they can see other peoples comments. Get the useability team to try out alternative formats for this to see what layout gets the most comments and what layout gets the best comments.
Every now and then some one will start a campaign for people to leave comments on one of these pages and we will give those comments appropriate weight. Meanwhile on other pages useful comments will point editors at issues needing attention or good ratings will encourage the work.
By "URL" I assume Ravpapa means "IP"? If so, that data is highly confidential unless the editor is anonymous. Only certain situations justify collecting IP addresess, eg sockputtetry. Anyway, many users have dynamic IP addresses: they can just log out and log back in with a new number... This is often problem for sockpuppet investigations, in fact, though comparitive analysis can often resolve this issue.
Astroturfing is a problem in all "rate this" or "comment on that" discussions: it is par for the course, unfortunately. Openness and accountability would certainly help but we need to be clear from the off that meats and socks—as well as votestacking, forum-shopping, and other false consensus-building techniques described in —are looked upon with extreme disapproval.
Yes, I meant IP. And I certainly don't suggest that we should be storing IP addresses to make them available publicly. But I agree, there is sensitivity about this, and I also realize it is not foolproof.
The problem of ballot stuffing is not the primary problem that I was seeking to solve with this idea. The main problem is preventing the duplication of profiling information for statistical analysis. Consider the case where a reader replies to the survey for two separate articles. In all innocence, she replies to profiling questions (age, education level, profession, use of Wikipedia, or whatever else we are interested in asking) twice, thus skewing the sample.
An alternative way of handling this would be to ask the reader if she has already filled out profile information, and, if so, to remove those questions from the instance of the survey. But that means that we cannot correlate article ratings with profile information.
A third alternative would be to capture the IP address, but to store it for only a few hours or a day. In any case, its value as a method of avoiding duplication in the sample declines after a day, because of dynamic IP assignments.
The key to frowning upon votestacking and such is to be able to know when it is happening. Probably the safest test is if there is a sudden surge in traffic. If we have that covered, I'm okay with almost anything. But if we don't cover that, then I'd be adamantly opposed.
Over the past few weeks, there's been some great discussions about the task force recommendations. There's some great energy here on this wiki, and I want to start moving toward completion. That includes:
- Integrating the feedback into the existing recommendations
- Filling in gaps (areas such as movement roles, expanding content, and reader conversion)
- Evaluation and prioritizing the recommendations
- Writing a draft plan
To get this work done, I'm proposing the creation of a Strategy Task Force. I hope that you all will read and help refine the proposal, and I especially hope that many of you sign up for the Task Force. Let's also move the discussions there so that we can have a central place to discuss next steps for strategy. Thanks!
This is probably a good way to tie everything together, and fill in the gaps. I'm happy to help out if you guys decide to go ahead.
My apologies, I did not mean to move discussion about a "baseline" standard on toa tangent. I am glad people generaly agree with me, and i agree that what I am talking about concerns a relatively small number of articles. Do we want to discuss this now, or later? I do not want to muck up a constructive process. But I do want to emphasize that my concern relates to 1% of our articles only because we have so many articles on different pokeman creatures and characters in dungeons and dragons. My point is not to marginalize afficionados of gaming sub-cultures (in fact i consider those articles very useful). But looking at it from the POV of a university professor: if we limit ourselves to those articles university or even high-school students will read in order to complete a class assignment, the kinds of articles I am talking about moves from 1% to 60% or 70%. My point is not just that in a particular context of use, the percentage goes up. My point is that in this particular context of use, the stakes for an NPOV and accurate/complete article are much higher.
Okay, now you guys have to tell me if my next point is about baseline quality or again, restricted to a subset of articles.
Above, Randomran wrote: "I think a baseline for quality is that you can write a neutral, verified sentence about what the subject is, and why it is important." I agree completely.
But I would add the following: "I think a baseline for quality is that you can provide a neutral, verified account of a complex debate among scholars who study this topic,and why it is important to these scholars"
Otherwise, I agree with the lists people are developing but once again must register this: the success of the application of these criteria depend on Wikipedia having a diverse body of editors including experts on th major areas of knowledge the encyclopedia covers.
We better discuss it now, but I would suggest may be starting a separate thread.
I do not know how to refactor things with this liquid thread system - if you ro FT2 or someone could turn this into a separate thread I woud be grateful. Slrubenstein 14:54, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
I think I managed to split it off. Under each message there is a ´more´ option, there is a ´split off´ function.
@ Slrubenstein - apologies, can you explain this post a little differently? I want to be sure I don't misunderstand your focus.
If I understand somewhat, you're discussing here only topics such as natural sciences, medicine, and other topics where high quality peer reviewed material is the norm in the field?
On a side, we host hundreds of thousands of topic in law, house building, beer, military history, scuba resorts, books and newspapers that gain significant coverage, mainstream films, chipsets, and the like. A vast number of topics aren't primarily academic peer reviewed (although they may well have academic input and discussion). Dismissing anything non-academic as "pokemon and D&D characters" is misinformed.
On the English Wikipedia, "problematic articles" are referred to as "controversial," and there are certainly controversies in all fields. Good articles on non-fiction topics are generally considered higher quality than articles about fiction, because it's hard (and often thankless, or worse) work to get controversial non-fiction right. Non-fiction is stenography in comparison.
FT2 you misunderstand my reference. I am not being dismissive of other articles. Nor am I identifying the articles to which I refer as those specifically in the sciences.
As a practical heuristic, you may be correct that i am talking about disciplines that privilege peer-reviewed articles. In effct, that may be what I was talking about. But I was deliberately speaking in a more abstract way, in order to be more inclusive.
The point is that quality articles are balanced. The question is, how do we recognize when an article has achieved balance. And my point is that different kinds of editors will focus on different kinds of balance.
My point is simply to distinguish between two kinds of standards for recognizing an NPOV/balanced article.
There are some topics where debates among specialists are the same as the debates among non-specialists. In these cases, it does not matter whetherone is a specialist or a non-specialist, either kind of person can tell whether the different sides of the debate are being represented.
But there are other topics where debates among specialists are quite diferent from debates among non-specialists. As an example I suggest "race and intelligence." For most non-specialists the debate is whether intelligence is nature or nurture. In this debate there are two sides. But for specialists, this is not the debate. Sociologists do not deny that a portion of intelligence is inherited. But they are focussing on how different aspects of th environment, at specific times in a child's development, may affect IQ scores. Among sociologists, there are a number of debates most of which have more than two, maybe even several, sides. Similarly, geneticists who study IQ scores of twins do not deny that a portion of intelligence is environmental. In fact, one of the major debates right now is how the fetal environment of twins may affect intelligence. This is not a nature-nurture debate, it is more complicated than that.
So when it comes to race and intelligence, we can just ask a bunch of regular editors if they feel the article is balanced. My bet is, if the article says that some people believe that differences in average IQ between Blacks abd Whites is natural, and some people believe it is caused by different environments, and some people believe it is a combination of the two, then a groups of average editors will agree that the article complis with NPOV and is balanced.
But if you ask a bunch of sociologists and geneticists if they think the article is balanced, I bet they would be speechless. They would say that the article doesn't even talk about the actual debates scientists are really arguing about.
If the article discusses the different debates among sociologists as to what aspects of the environemtn are most important, why scores on tsts begin to diverge at a certain time, and so on, and if it discusses the differences in fetal environment for identical or fraternal twins and how that might affect intelligence, then sociologist and geneticists can judge whether the debates are bing represented in a balanced way and whether any fring views are being given too much weight.
But if you asked a bunch of average editors whether the article is balanced, they simply cannot give a well-informed answer. In these cases, average editors can judge the clarity of the article, its style and presentation, but they just cannot jusge whether it is balanced.
We would need experts on the topic to judge.
Is the key here peer-reviewed journal articles? I honestly do not know. maybe. But maybe not I would have to think about other examples. Certainly, the one example I gave is one where research is presented in peer-reviewed journals.
But do you remember when Jon Stewart put an end to CNN's "Crossfire?" He was the boy you finaly said that the emperor has no clothes. Of course, FOX news, and the O'Reilly Factor continue to claim to be fair and balanced. We all know what is going on, right? These shows cover politics and public policy and always assume there are two sides, right and left, so if they have someone from the right speak on - say - health care reform, and someone from the left speak on health care reform, then they claim to be "rair and balanced." The problem here is not just that FOX favors the right in all sorts of little ways. The problem is that there are many political and public policy issues where there are not just two views, left and right.
So this leads me to think that my point is not just limited to issues covered by peer-reviewed journal articles. I think Wikipedia has a lot of articles on political or public policy issues, and also articles on history (e.g. the article on Fascism, which is often mired in conflict) where people think there are just two views. It could be "left versus right" or it could be "religious versus atheist." There are all sorts of articles in which regular people (the pool for most editors) may actually have a personal stake (they are devout Christians or they are atheists) and they see certain issues in terms of two sides (you agree with me or you do not) so when they work on articles they think there are just two views, and if both views are represented, the article is balanced.
But in fact this just often is not the case, and many people just are not aware of the other sides. In some cases this is very simple to explain - some people who edit the Jesus article really believe that all editors are either Christian or atheists and that these are the two views that need to be represented, equally. But there is a community of scholars - trained in history, religion Biblical studies, etc - who look at the New Testament neither as Christians nor as atheists but as historians, and they have their own set of debates. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to explain to some other editor that X is not representing a Christian POV or an Atheits POV but the POV of an historian.
So I am identifying topics where there are popular debates and also academic debates.
But this is not just popular versus academic. When it comes to health care reform, it is not just a matter of Democrat versus Republican, and it is not just (Democrat versus Republican) versus (academic) - there is the insurance indusry, the AMA, and a host of public policy experts who are having their own debates, who are not necessarily academic.
FT2, I agree with you that balance is one criteria for a quality article. But the qustion is, who can assess whether an article is balanced or not? That depends on where the debates are located. If the only debate is in Congress, it may be a debate between democrats and republicans. If the debate is public (let's say, over abortion) there can be a debate between right and left, between religious and atheist. I think that with many of these debates the average editor, or a random selection of editors, can recognize whether the article is balanced.
But if the debates are located in academica, or in public policy circles, the average Wikipedian may simply not be able to judge whether the article is balanced. or worse, the average Wikipedian might try to reshape an academic debate so that it has onoy two side (left versus right) when in fact it has, say, five sides.
So I hope I have explained my concerns clearly. my concerns may apply to a small percentage of Wikipedia articles, but if college or high-school students are relying on Wikipedia these are the articles they will be looking at. And high school and college students are not qualified to recognize whether the articles are balanced, because thse readers do not know all the major debates and the different sides of the debates. And the average Wikipedia editor isn't qualified either.
So I agree with you that such articles have to be balanced but the mechanisms we may rely on for the vast majority of our articles won't work here.
To be constructive, can we attempt to make a classification to discriminate between these situations?
I spelled out my concerns anecdotally, because they arise out of concrete situations I have been in. I think the first question is, do they resonate with others? If so I would welcome someone else's attempt to operationalize the distinction or begin a typology.
For me the basic point remains this: there are some topics that are so complex and dependent on specialist knowledge that no group of average editors, no matter how well they understand our NPOV policy, can judge whether the article is balanced - represents all significant views proportionately and without giving weight to fringe views. We need to keep this in mind if we make "balance" a criteria of quality.
I agree with this basic point, but my problem is - can we make it constructive? Can we somehow define the class of articles which will be flagged "hey, this article is very much vulnerable: it is easy to make it look neutral, but the real neutrality can only be checked by experts coming from two or more groups with different backgrounds"? If we can, I would say: fine, let us tag these articles and FOR THEM the baseline quality would include this tag instead of NPOV checking (or the flag removed if it had been checked), and otherwise satisfy the same criteria.
An observation, and an admittedly minor suggestion. Such articles are often sources of conflict because experts and non-experts have different views as to how to achieve NPOV. Fora start, how about creating a new template. Right now we have Template:POV
As a small first step, how about a new template that says something like, "This article has neutrality problems that require the ettention of experts in the field?"
Other suggestions for wording, welcome.
Fine by me. My lengthy reply above was in response to FT2 - he was critical about one gross distinction I made between scholarly and non-scholarly articles so he is more attuned to or sensitive to the full range of types of Wikipedia articles. Along the lines of your wish to be more constructive, maybe FT2 has some ideas about how to relate my point to a more precise and accurate taxonomy of Wikipedia articles ....
I've worked on some featured quality articles, and I'd definitely agree that everything you said is part of our highest quality standards. The question is if that's a baseline, or is that the highest possible standard? Because as much as I hate to say it, CNN is basically consumable. No respectable academic would say they were neutral in the sense that they cover all respected points of view and separate fact from fiction. But in the sense that they present two sides and usually don't pick one of the other, they are neutral.
I think we may need to discuss what we mean by "baseline" anyway. A phrase that comes by is "safe enough to eat". Not fine dining safe, or even organic foods safe. It might mean "McDonald's safe". "Won't put you in the hospital safe".
I think more specifically, we want to know what we're going to actually DO when we have the baseline.
Is it just a way to mark articles for readers, to give them adequate warning? Is it a way to mark articles that -- if they can't reach the baseline -- should never have been added to the encyclopedia in the first place?
- Themes and ideas from Archive 1:
- Borderline activity and gaming is easy, and knowing users can quite effectively prevent intervention from other users or admins on "their" content or debates.
- Admins and even Arbcom find some situations hard to act on and prone to attack, hence users in those debates don't get the support they need to resolve the issue effectively.
- Should admins be encouraged to operate to a stricter standard? Or a more understanding one? Or both?
- Possible approaches:
- Better guidance implies less tolerance for bad conduct
- Focus on the ability to require better conduct, not just sanctioning of grossly bad conduct
- Admins expected to act on such cases (admins who can't/won't get removed?)
I tend to agree with the above, but is it really our business? To me it seems so much project-specific that I am not sure we can issue any general recommendations beyond blocking disruptive users (which I believe admins should be doing anyway).
For what it is worth, I do not agree. I think admins really should be thought of more like custodians than sheriffs. I think we should not expect any better behavior from them than any other editor - obviously, I am opposed to an admin abusing her power, but abusing specific powers is the only thing we should care about when it comes to admins.
personally, I am for expanding the rolls of admins. I do not like the complex vetting process we have now. My proposal: anyone who has crossed some threshold in number of edits and number of months registerd, should automatically have to do three months' service as administrator. This should be viewed as a public service. They should have to learn the rules for speedy deletes and how to handle vandals and all the other custodian-like crap admins have to handle. After three months they can pass on the service to someone else. In the meantime they will have learned a bit more about how Wikipedia operates, which will make them a better member of the community.
Automatic 3 months service? That could.... actually... work. (for those who wanted it).
And then what? Take it away? Let them ask for permanent adminship? What about those who don't want it, don't know the rules... they don't use the tools unless they are sure? They never told us they were sure, so then what, remove it for failing?
Or would it be more like, "if they meet the criteria and confirm they understand the admin-related policies or will refrain from using the tools they don't understand, they may get an automatic right to a 3 month trial"?
I can see pitfalls but the core idea is interesting. Not sure it's a "top 4" thing though.
Last edit: 23:04, 28 December 2009
Countries that have a mandatory national service or national military draft have to deal with the pitfalls you correctly identify. Also, many academic departments have committees that no one wants to be on, and which require some serious learning curve, but that members of the caculty essentially rotate in and out of. So what i propose has a basis in the real world. The big pay-off for Wikipedia is that it would force everyone who has been around a certain amount of time (which we can discuss - six months? a year? two years? 1,000 edits? 5,000 edits?) will have a crash course in some key policies (pertaining mostly to vandalism, deletion, and blocks) and we end up with an overall-better-educated community of editors. It can promote a greater sense of community and responsibility. Also, many newbies pretty much just do vandalism patrols and in essense are acting as auxiliary admins already. But all the pitfalls you correctly identify can easily be handled. The key thing would be to have a package of policy guidelines the editor needs to know and refer to to be an efective admin. Also, there can be tranches so that there is some overlap between people ending three months of service and people starting. People starting thir service can even be assigned an admin as mentor for the first couple of weeks. As to how to handle people who want to remain admins, well, I think the first question is, if we were to adopt my system would we need any more admins. If the answer is yes, we can keep the current method of nominating someone sysop and the difference is the candidate already has three months of actual service which establishes a record by which s/he can be judged (and would make it a lot easier for her to answer questions).
Judging from the situation in ru_wiki, admins are the ones who get engaged in borderline activity and gaming, not the regular users. This is not to mention the ru_wiki checkusers who craft falsifications and harass users by constant intrusions to their privacy. Therefore, what is really needed is strict control over the admins and harsh measures against the admins and other "wiki-bosses" who violate Wikipedia rules and basic principles. A good objective indicator for a wiki-gamer is the contribution to the articles. In ru_wiki, many admins edit all kind of discussion pages, whereas their contribution to the articles is less than 15% of their total edits. And you expect these admins to make professional decisions about the articles? All what they can do is playing wiki-career games and hindering the work of wiki-authors. The power should be given to the authors, not to nomenklatura. SA ru 01:44, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
Just to make it clear, this guy has been indefinitely blocked on ru.wp two years ago for trolling and disruptive behavior. I am sure he showed up here just following my contributions.
I am not following your contribution. I am following 1plet's post in livejournal. Just to make it clear, Yaroslav Blanter is a typical ru.wikipedia admin who is gaming the system. The game is called "wiki emperor". For example, he staged three "I am leaving you guys" shows, provoking lengthy, meaningful discussions having nothing to do with encyclopedic work. He is also involved in witch hunting. I am not the only one blocked in ru.wikipedia for political reasons, i.e. for disagreement with the power model in ru.wikipedia. User Lvova is a fresh example of a person banned for absolutely no reason. (She chose a wiki-vandal as her real-life boyfriend, but she herself made an excellent contribution to ru.wikipedia.) Here Yaroslav Blanter is trying to smear my personality, but what I noted is true: ru.wikipedia is a dictatorship, the admins violate the rules, and the checkusers harass people by intruding into their privacy. This is not the model of free editing that Wikipedia founders wanted to implement.
Philippe. would you please consider blocking this user? He only has two posts on the whole project, one is pointless, another one is a personal attack. I believe he does not contribute anything to the discussion, and I do not want to turn this task force into a troll-playing field.
Yaroslav, assume good faith, or just ignore him. Give him a chance to say his peace. If he really is as bad as you say he is, he'll soon prove it.
SA ru, don't come here to accuse Wikipedians of harassment or abuse. Come here to discuss quality.
No, i'm not going to block based upon the behavior so far, but I am going to request that everyone cease from the name calling and point-y attacks. If you want to contribute, SA ru, please do so in a data-driven way. Vague attacks and innuendo do no one any good. Personal attacks will not be tolerated, either.
Last edit: 23:03, 30 January 2010
This is a serious issue since quite a number of times some administrator does not have an understanding of the issues and the subject and uses her/his powers in a very arbitrary way. A classical example is of rogue administrator --redacted--. There should be some mechanism to reign such people for the Wiki to become better.
Note:Edited by User:Philippe (WMF) to remove the name of the alleged rogue administrator. We won't allow this to become another forum to pursue editing conflicts. Stick to issues, not naming individual people, please. ~Philippe (WMF) 23:03, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
- Themes and ideas from Archive 1:
- Creating a formal recognition of users who are particularly trusted as editors (both in content and interaction terms) would have numerous benefits.
- Provides a marker/label for people who are particularly trusted to have good judgment; people who've been around for a while, and understand the policies well, who are reasonable and thoughtful. Benefits:
- Investment in own reputation for quality - They have an investment in extra standing (reputation-wise), which is valuable and a source of reward. It will tend to be guarded and incentivize people.
- Helps in everyday editing and patrolling - We can patrol articles and edit wars easier by highlighting these users in the article history (valuable information).
- Parallel track for non-admins, widely available - Not all editors will want or seek adminship, this is a parallel way to recognize those who edit content. If it can be made something "everyone should aim for" we might have many thousands of editors flagged this way, a strong impetus for a quality based community.
- Pool of "anyone can edit" editors to help in content disputed areas - In an entrenched area or difficult edit war, Arbcom or the community can now say "any trusted content editor may edit the article. Others = talk page only". Many many trusted content editors, so no real POV or "too narrow editors" issue here. Anyone who wants to edit the mainspace and can get community agreement they edit content well, may join in (others only on the talk page). Instant stability, good decisions, consensus, and quality, on problem and edit war articles! No harm done, no bias added, articles still edited by a wide pool that anyone can join.
- Recognized wiki-qualification/standing - While wiki isn't a "profession" this provides a way users can stretch their skills and a means of self evaluation and development as editors. A "recognized wiki-editor" qualification would also be good for ethos.
- Would need a low-gamable low-work appointment method and a clear removal criterion. Preferably "bright line" and not time-intensive. A draft nomination system has been suggested (design goals: "automation, low gameability, simplicity of experience to users, very low scope for politicking/dramatizing/popularity contests, and low time needed by participants")
- Title - trusted editors? (May imply others not so trusted?) Senior editors?
I know it they are heartfelt and in good faith but I strongly oppose #1 and #2.
In theory, administrators are supposed to fill this role. I know the whole RFA process has become easy to block if someone has any enemies, but the worst we can say is that we are too strict about our administrators. In general, having a lot of experience, a good history, with no blocks, and a wide understanding of Wikipedia... that's what it takes to be an administrator.
Admins are supposed to be able to offer a wise perspective when it comes to both content and behavioral issues. But do they? Maybe it's just a question of highlighting them. But before we start adding another trusted class of users, we want to ask how the current trusted class is doing. Are they helpful? Why or why not?
No, sorry Randomran, admins are not.
- Admins are trusted hands for tools, not necessarily for quality of editing. Maybe it should be both, but it isn't.
- Also many who are trusted hands for editing, are excluded from (or would not wish) adminship.
Last edit: 18:51, 21 January 2010
This observation fits my experience with administrators: they should not be involved in content disputes as administrators (of course, they can add their two cents into a Talk page like anyone else). Creating a set of "higher" authorities is a prescription for disaster.
The best way to handle quality issues is a strict enforcement of guidelines on Talk pages to insure a constructive exchange focused on topic. That means a robot-like universal enforcement of WP:NPA WP:Civil and so forth applied to every participant, regardless of the Admin's view of who is right or wrong (the Admin usually can't tell accurately). It also means strict patrol of slurs, sniffs, catcalls and other such techniques used to inflame discussions and sidetrack issues.
If the Talk pages worked correctly and avoided debates for ego-satisfaction or entertainment value, article quality would improve, and tiresome exchanges and disciplinary disputes woudl be reduced.
We already operate hierachies of editors - for example at a simple level a disruptive or biased editor and a skilled FA writer are treated completely differently. A registered user or admin can make content edits that less trusted editors cannot. I know that's not what you mean, but undiscriminating acceptance of all edits and all editors is a problem when you look at it. It gets quality to a good standard; then it starts to hinder not help. In hindering, it discourages the skilled editors who can/do work on high quality -- and this is its far more problematic effect. As a high quality reference work we have to be willing to say (as Yaroslav well words it) "degrading quality to an inferior level is not acceptable".
How to achieve that? The key is not to lose crowdsourcing, but to tame it, and to ensure it cannot act negatively (even by accident, agendas, or unskilled good intention).
We're designing for the mainstream of articles, where "erosion" is an issue, poor quality edits happen, and a user who is capable of taking it to high quality is not readily thrown away because "anyone can edit" must always trump "high quality content".
Ideally we want both. The philosophical solution is to have "anyone may edit, but... if you want to do some kinds of edit, you need to demonstrate you are a safe capable custodian of those edits". It's still open to all, but a user wanting to edit some sensitive, edit-warred, or high quality content may be held to the talk page rather than allow article disruption, POV warring, or inadvertent poorer quality into it, until they show they are a safe pair of hands to edit and usually won't cause such quality issues. It's the same principle as drives adminship - anyone can gain access to some potentially risky/damaging areas needing judgement and quality, but they need to show they have community trust first.
Most articles are lower quality. We can educate and inform, mentor and guide, provide tools, and improve them. But for some issues and areas, it helps to formally recognize users who are of this kind.
I don't have a problem with suggesting that. It's in line with Wikipedia's core philosophy, and a vast part of the mainstream community wants us to be credible as a high quality reference work.
Communal agreeing/consensus that a number of users are trusted not to edit war, trusted not to edit with bias, trusted not to indulge in COI or inflaming disputes, trusted to speak to source evidence not personalities... this extends the community's ability to be assured on a range of issues, and address a range of edit wars. It provides a visible desirable quality standard any user can reach (not needing technical skills, just attitudes), and once obtained most will use well, teach to others, spread wisdom and high standards, and be reluctant to lose through indulging in bad editing.
I cannot think of a better way to spread high standards than to recognize those that have it, and make a distinction others will seek to obtain too.
Last edit: 18:20, 20 December 2009
Re: admins, like I said, I think the group of admins excludes a lot of trusted editors. But they are in positions of trust. They often protect articles from vandalism, and take a role in mediating between lower level editors. I definitely support creating a trusted editor position that is more about protecting content than it is about protecting community. But we'd be foolish to ignore admins as a case study. We can learn a lot about what has worked, and what admins have been unable to do.
I also agree with you that we already have "trusted editors", which would be apparent to any reasonable editor who has been around for a while. Pretending that we don't (because we hate hierarchy) is a bad idea. It means that new editors have no idea who is in a position of respect, and who is just some bloke with an opinion. As much as we might wish for a community where a new editor can challenge a veteran and win on the merits of the argument, in practice this just pisses off the veteran and confuses the newbie. The community would be much more effective if the new editor understood that certain veterans have the trust of the community and represents community standards. This is the only way that a stranger in a strange land can get by. Otherwise, they're inclined to cause disruptions, or (more likely) leave.
The main issues round admins are drama surrounding appointment/removal, and their ability to regulate other users. A trusted/senior user in the sense envisaged here, usually has no special access or rights. They are flagged up for their broad and wiki-wide balanced competent approach to editing content, not gaining any rights over tools etc. A user of this kind is the type who could be put down in Israel/Palestine, or Abortion, or Pedophilia or Scientology or Homeopathy, and would be the kind trying to hear the evidence, assess sources, tone down rhetoric and warring on both sides, speak gently and civilly to the evidence, support others, and get NPOV.
They are also the kind who get attacked by both sides (and who are most needed) in entrenched disputes.
A newcomer should be able to (and can) challenge a veteran editor. Veteran editors of the kind envisaged are the ones who will help, assist, listen to the newcomer, and try to explain to them what is needed so they too can be higher quality in their work.
Recognizing such users acts as a spur: others will want that recognition and work to get it, it provides a way to identify users who are safe to ask or won't play games on content, it acts as a pervasive standard we hope all editors will seek to achieve, a way to obtain a quality-oreintation in the community, a way to let anyone edit and yet resolve entrenched content disputes, and may well be our best and most powerful move to quality.
I appreciate FT2's 18:02, 20 December 2009 post, which I largely agree with and read as a clarification of his earlier posts. I guess for now my main point is that we should not idetify admins with this pool of experienced editors. I really believe that admins should have a narrow range of carefully described powers and roles which largely have to do with maintenance.
Yes, there are more experienced editors. But in my experience, newbies recognize experience and value it. And I will go further: people respond to experience better when it speaks for itself, not when it wears a badge. I remember seven or eight years ago when a now-de-sysoped- sysop saw an edit conflict, and his first edit was "I am admin, what seems to be the trouble here" like he was sheriff. Belive me, nothing good came from this intervention. When the Sarah Palin article was paralyzed, I showed up and simply asked a few questions (about sources, about the key issues). I am not claiming I am a great mediator, but I discovered that a low-key approach can be very effective. I was not claiming to be an authority, but it quickly became evident to everyone that (1) I understood the core policies really well and (2) complying with these core policies would guide edits that everyone would find equally acceptable. Policies provided a non-partisan point of reference for deciding hat could and could not go in. It took a couple of days but it worked.
So I agree completely abou the value of experienced editors. I just see no need for a formal hierarchy and indeed I think it can be counter-productive. Slrubenstein 14:05, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
"I guess for now my main point is that we should not idetify admins with this pool of experienced editors" - yes, 100%.
Many admins of course are competent or very competent content editors. Many admins have GAs and FAs. It's a classic Venn Diagram - 1/ good and capable balanced content writers who aren't or won't be admins, 2/ admins who won't meet our criteria for trusted/senior content writers, and 3/ some who are considered both. But the primary criterion here is zero to do with adminship. It's all about "can they be put down on any topic, any content related issue, and they'll understand core policies and try to apply them with care and thoughtfulness, and support and foster good editing and good collaboration." It's deliberately offsetting adminship, as a completely separate route for content writers, fostering a quality oriented community.
I think that's a very well put description. Admins are useful, but don't necessarily focus on quality of editing, more quality of participation or quality of community. Some kind of editorial counterpart woudl be useful for the people who have no interest in adminship.
Having just developed my tutorial proposal yesterday, I can revisit this issue with a fresh perspective. First, I am glad we all agree that admin does not equal quality editor. I have expressed my distaste for creating hierarchies among editors, but will just say right now that I am happy to continue discussing it. But I see my proposal as linked to this and I would go further and say: before we come up with formal criteria for establishing a new rank of editor that indicates expertise, I think it makes sense first to have an on-line/automatic tutorial and quiz (of the sort I had to take to be on the HS committee) for anyone to become a resgistered user. If the tutorial limites itself to core content policies and algorithms on how to do "pull" rather than "push" research, it does a few things all of which are good right now, when the ranks of registered users have swollen, when, in fact, we have a glut of registered users:
- it makes becoming a registered user a minor accomplishment and thus something of value. This may turn off some people, but it will not prevent them from continiuing to edit anonymously. And right now we can afford to turn off some people. And this 20-minute tutorial will not turn off a lot of people, especially when being a registered user suddenly means something more. And since anyone could conceivably pass the quiz, this does not create any absolute limit to the number of new registered users. And believe me, ANY wikiholic will spare 20 minutes to check their understanding of some key policies and quidelines.
- the quiz is largely on content policies and thus sends an important signal: content policies count. We have not discussed this, but many people are aware of how many conflicts at articles are being handled through personal behavior policies. I am all for civility, but the fact is for many editors personal behavior now counts for more than expertise. It has become a way of gaming the system and the price is a loss of quality, I think. Quizzing people on content policies to become registered users means all new registered users will have better knwoledge of content policies and understand the importance of content policies and this may help shift the WP community culture, which has drifted towards an obsession with behavior, in the other direction, towards more of an obsession with content.
- the quiz will also be on how real research is done (what I have been calling "pull") and encourage more new registered users to do it.
But, in relation to this thread, it also means newly registered users will be able to recognize other users who have done serious research.
I believe in building from the ground up. Let's first create a base of registered users who understand and can recognize quality research. These registeres users will I believe been more supportive of expert editors who have done real research, they will create an environment that is more encouraging of real research. I think creating this environment will count for more than formal recognition o expert editors. But even if we agree to come up with some kind of formal recognition for expert editors, I think creating this sort of environment is still important to make Wikipedia more congenial to expert editors, to make it more likely expert research lasts at WP, and so on. I am not proposing this as an alternative to FT2s ideas, but I think that my idea is no more radical than his, and is worth trying first. Ultimately, I can see these different proposals working together, supporting one another.
I do agree it's desirable, but I think we have to accept this as something we educate, not something we can at present demand.
A mini tutorial/quiz on joining might be nice, of the form "Have you taken our new users' quiz? It takes 30 minutes and will help you be a great editor!", with a short description and a mini quiz (with explanations of wrong answers) at the end. But I don't think compulsory will be workable nor a major recommendation. Note it under "Interface and wizards" maybe.
Main reasons why I don't think the forcible approach suggested is so workable:
- Ability to hide an IP should not be linked to quality of editing. Orthogonal issues (one doesn't influence the other). Big reason
- The result won't be editors compelled to learn. It'll be most readers being annoyed, and a lot turning to mini-websites "How to pass the Wikipedia Quiz".
- We want people to edit well in practice, not just know answers in pure theory (minor, theory certainly can't hurt, but not sure testing theoretical know-how will help).
- Reward's better at motivating genuine learning ("if you learn these and show it in your editing you get recognition" may trump the bleaker "pass this quiz or you can't edit" as a genuine motivator)
If there's a separate idea about "requirements for new editors to edit", can you start a new thread on it, and keep this one on its headline topic :)
wikipedia has a strategic dilemma of encouraging quality edits by knowledgeable editors, while staying true to its open values. how will you measure quality? will you use number of active edits? (easy but misleading) is this becoming Wikipedia:Esperanza? wikipedia germany came to a different answer on editing articles than english. is this becoming like that?
This is a good idea. Let me come at this from a slightly different angle, but ultimately end up in the same place. I'll start by saying that many of the problems we're currently experiencing is that the role of an administrator has never been clearly defined.
It's quoted on WP:ADMIN as:
- Administrators are users trusted with access to certain tools. They are expected to observe a high standard of conduct, to use the tools fairly, and never to use them to gain advantage in a dispute.
That's it. Trusted users. Nothing here about being good editors with FA or GA articles. And yet, today, that appears to be the sole criteria for getting the sysop bit. In fact, I've seen a few editors who have participated in fixing vandalism, etc, getting turned down because they haven't got any "quality editing". I've also seen many RfA's discuss many other facets of an editors behaviour including an opinion they may have (nothing to do with editing skills). Conduct is mentioned as:
- Administrators are expected to lead by example and to behave in a respectful, civil manner in their interactions with others. Administrators are expected to follow Wikipedia policies and to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.
Yet it's a blue moon Sunday is an admin is desysoped for breaching this. I've seen wheel wars. I've seen serious fall outs. And I've seen admins abusing tools.
OK, nobody is perfect. But, the root of the problem is that as a community, we seem to believe that we're rewarding good editors with adminship. But there's nothing about the extra role that administrators are expected to perform, which is the expectation that many editors have. What about warning other users about breaches of policy? Or breaches of civility. Or edit warring. What about cleaning up with anti-vandalism blocks, etc?
Some may wonder why 50% of admins are no active. For many, being an admin is unpleasant and takes away from the reasons that attracted them to edit in the first place. For many of the active admins, they take no part in the chores, leaving it to a group of dedicated editors.
I believe we've come to a point where we need to separate the content from running the place (the church and the state). We need admins who can ensure that the best possible environment is created for collaboration and reaching consensus, letting the good, great, and not so bad editors to create the content.
Therefore, we should stop rewarding great editors with the nuisance of being an administrator, but still to recognize and reward the best we have. There's nothing to stop an editor being both a Senior Editor and an Administrator either.
Well said. That reflects my viewpoint very well. I'm a pretty good administrator on en.wp, I think, but I'm a crappy article writer. I really think they're two very different skill sets.
Wow, this is very well put and makes a lot of sense.
(And to Philippe's point, I have very little interest in being an administrator, although I've been asked. I love working on article content, though. That includes discussing how to change Wikipedia so that it's easier to improve content.)
Personal perspective: I like to think I'd pass the acid test if I put myself forward for adminship (though I make no assumptions). But I have resisted doing so because, ultimately, I do want to spend more time on the actual article content. Even without being an admin it's very easy to drift away from articles and spend a huge amount of time doing other jobs, so I can't imagine what it must be like once you become an admin.
My true Wikipedia goal is to read all of our 1,000 core articles :o)
Off topic, but responding to Bodnotbod -> Wowzer. What little article work I did immediately evaporated when I became an admin. I didn't even have time to do the gnomish stuff that I loved.
I still can't understand for the life of me why anyone would want to be an admin. I'm thankful there are people who do it.
I sometimes worry that if we had a separate recognition for people who write good content, nobody would want to be an admin anymore. So there would be no one to handle disputes and trolls and all those other dirty jobs.
Is that a legitimate worry?
I don't think so, because many admins I know aren't good writers/editors. They were either active as maintenance users (for example: fighting vandalism) or as users interested in wikipolitics.
Once again, I'm relieved that everyone in the world isn't like me :)
What a good point. This seems to me too to be the crux of the current problem. There are admins, and there are editors, and there are people who do both, but it seems that too many of those who are admins are not sufficiently impartial, or can't be bothered, or haven't time to look fully at both sides of a problem.
I know of editors who have been editing for years, but who have now given up because of the lack of even-handed treatment they receive. (Recognition doesn't even come into it!) Examples from people I know: being told, often by "admins" themselves, that they are vandals after having reverted other people's vandalism; being abused for having carefully edited articles so that they fit in with Wikimedia guidelines; being ridiculed for trying to delete unsourced articles, *and* for trying to retain articles which are perfectly well-sourced; suffering personal attacks for pointing out (with justification) that photographs are incorrectly captioned... When an admin is appealed to, these editors seem more often than not to get short shrift. (Unless personally known to that admin, perhaps?)
Of course, it's possible that some of these people phrased their edit too aggressively, or too unclearly, or that they were too sensitive. But none of them have just stopped editing after the first issue - or even the hundredth.
Perhaps a "professional" body of admins, with a more strictly adhered-to code of conduct, would remedy this.JaneVannin 08:11, 25 January 2010 (UTC)
I do little except add content in areas where I have both expertise and on-hand reference sources. Mr Content, that's me. I will never be an admin (and rightly, too, some will think!). Extra status for people like me would help in those tricky areas where bad things may go on, but few admins really understand the topic. In some areas I've never 'met' an admin... It would help me on content work to know if any other expert editor has been on an article.
Variable quality, between near rubbish and brilliant, may be found in all WP areas. In my opinion the disparity is our greatest weakness. Also, some articles have been so over-edited that they lack coherence and overall form despite every single proposition being well-referenced. Some articles which achieve GA and FA are almost unreadable, but some are so good as to be almost unbelievable... Persistent edits by people who are well-intentioned, but ignorant, are a daily problem. They are much more difficult to handle than outright vandals. Vandals are handled well by the system.
A common problem with poor-quality articles is whether to sweep most of it away and begin again, or to proceed piecemeal by talk-page discussion. Then an ad-hoc partnership between a couple of expert editors or editor+admin makes the task so much easier. This does happen sometimes in the high-quality areas, of course, but not enough.
A thought: areas of expertise might be listed for each expert editor. Inside each area they could be a first port of call for users with content difficulties.
To summarise the blather: I'm in favour of the recommendations. Macdonald-Ross 07:43, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
- Themes and ideas from Archive 1:
- This is distinct from "obtaining feedback", although feedback is an important source of metrics. It's about how we ourselves can measure quality, quality metrics, and so on.
- Possible approaches:
- Several ways suggested to obtain useful metrics:
- Basic stuff such as tags, low levels of citing, etc can be automatically measured and evaluated.
- Specified quality criteria can be measured using automation. For example enwiki has various "automated peer review" systems for possible article issues and improving articles, including AndyZ's tool and the like.
- Stability is similarly measurable
- Creation of agreed standards (new article, baseline "goot enough to eat" quality, good, featured) would mean that metrics for progress between these stages could be produced such as time taken, common blocking issues, etc.
- User/reader feedback can be obtained, and profiled by user/reader topic knowledge.
- Woodwalker identified some 17 areas for metrics and similar measures in the thread Defining quality
We can also introduce a large number of quality levels (say 10: from a mini-stub to a featured article) and ask the Wiki-projects to grade it. The quality label should not be confused with the importance label.
Can we meaningfully define quality levels between "baseline quality" (Good enough to eat") and "Good" articles? Not easy...?? I suppose it might be up to the community concerned to create quality levels. A smaller number could be less confusing.
Right now we (depending on the project) have five: candidate for deletion, stub, ordinary article, FA, GA. I believe that it is not so difficult to extend to 10 (for instance, introducing complete articles and articles with correct but incomplete information), but of course I do not find it important whether it is 6, 8 or 10. What I find important that everybody understands the rules of the game.
I think a baseline for quality is that you can write a neutral, verified sentence about what the subject is, and why it is important. e.g.: "World War II, or the Second World War (often abbreviated WWII or WW2), was a global military conflict which involved most of the world's nations, including all great powers, organised into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The war involved the mobilisation of over 100 million military personnel, making it the most widespread war in history." (I know it would be easy to get that article up to much higher quality than just those two sentences, but just wanted to throw that out as an example.)
We have some quality standards related to flagged revisions and these may help in separating the baseline quality and substandard articles. On ru.wp (which is different from de.wp but it is closer to what will be implemented on en.wp) the standards to flag an article are:
- does not contain obviously wrong statements, obvious copypaste and obvious defects like broken templated; basically, has not been vandalized;
- does contain at least one category;
- does contain at least one internal link;
- is not a speedy deletion candidate;
- all other problems like for instance lack of interwiki or sources are clearly marked.
Drawing a line between a baseline quality aricle and a GA-level article can be more difficult but I think it is clear that a two-sentence article is not a GA.
Yes. Baseline is about basics and about avoiding negatives. In principle it's "something we wouldn't be ashamed to show the public".
Agree with Randomran and Yaroslav Blanter that even one reasonable sentence with a category and minimal links etc, can be acceptable content.
The key is that the sentence has to be verified in something independent and reliable. And it can't be verifying the mere existence, or just anything.
"Tommy Smith was a World War 2 Veteran.(cited to a personal website) World War 2 was a global conflict that involved most of the world's nations, including two major alliances: the Axis and the Allies.(cited to a published history book)"
I'm digging into details here. But details are important.
Keep it simple for the purposes of a recommendation: - the idea of a baseline (A.K.A. "fit to eat", "not something we'd be ashamed of") plus examples of what a baseline standard might be.
Ideally it should be some simple definition that most communities would agree, in principle, is a basic need, and with basic requirements that any article can probably reach given an hour or two's work. So that we can easily agree all articles should be of this baseline quality.
If they are not created that way, then made that way very soon or else created in some "Draft:" namespace until they meet it.
Hmm, good point about simplicity. I actually think that "no original research", "neutral point of view", and "verifiability" offer a solid baseline. "What Wikipedia is not", as well. We wouldn't want to go much simpler than that, or else we really throw quality out the window. So it's really a question of translating those rules into a simple baseline standard.
Yaroslav is right that we probably need to throw in some positive things too, like having categories and wikilinks.
I am not exactly sure what we are discussing but I think writing some guidelines should be relatively easy. I am more worried here about the systematic bias issues: for instance, coverage of Israel on ar.wp. But may be we should just let these issues as an apart point and not discuss here (as well as problematic topics on major projects). I beleve even without these problematic topics we cover 99% of all the articles. Problematic articles should be marked as such and treated manually.
Possible baseline (feel free to amend or edit):
- Inclusion/encyclopedic - Article is likely to be encyclopedic and/or meet any inclusion criteria (NOT, Notability, etc), and does not fall within any rapid deletion process for that wiki (eg "speedy deletion" or "prod").
- Neutrality - Article has been reviewed by an uninvolved user and appears reasonably neutral
- Where neutrality issues exist, appropriate action and tags are in place
- Original research, Verifiability, Copyright - Article appears to meet these criteria.
- Cites - Key and controversial statements cited, and cites checked. Unchecked statements and uncited issues are tagged.
- Tone/style - Article is in an encyclopedic tone, in reasonable and readable
Englishlanguage, broken into reasonable sections with encyclopedic section structure if necessary, and promotional style material has been removed.
- Intro/summary - Contains a broad overview, or for articles with an introduction, the introduction provides a broad overview.
- Links, templates and categories - obvious internal links are linked; external links are appropriate; very obvious navigation templates are included; at least one category.
- Checklist of common issues - A checklist of common issues is reviewed and the article tagged if needed (eg reference improvement needed, limited geographic scope, missing perspectives, relevant WikiProjects, etc)
- Other concerns - Conflict of interest, controversial or complex topic, or other specialist issues, either cleared, or clearly tagged and flagged for attention
Most articles could be assessed by such a checklist in minutes, and (except where there is an editing dispute) these kinds of basic issues fixed or properly tagged (as "open issues for attention") within an hour.
In 5 obviously we need to replace English for the language of the project.
The rest is pretty much reasonable. but depends on what we call baseline qualityy/ For instance the two-sentence article cited above would not be tagged as a baseline quality article since it does not contain introduction. Also, it does not contain sources even though it is pretty much obvious where the sources could be found. We basically can decide whether in this example is acceptable to tag the absence of sources and intro rather than to require a quality reviewer to add them him/herself/
Item 5 ("English") edited.
As for the 2 sentence article, a baseline quality article that is very short might not need a separate introduction. That's a matter for the local community.
Maybe we don't mind a baseline article being short, so long as it's decent quality. Or maybe this means there are two levels of quality we can distinguish: - "baseline quality" (any length, even just 2 sentences, but has the key features as above) and then "expanded baseline article" (long enough to have sections and separate introduction). I think even the shortest and most obvious topic should have sources for its key facts, to satisfy baseline quality.
Who adds them and is tagging enough - separate question. I think tagging for sources is different from tagging for NPOV (which is why I put sources, verifiability, OR etc separate from NPOV). Users can sometimes argue for years about if it's neutral. So tagging and discussion may be reasonable. But it should be easy to require key or contentious facts to be sourced/verifiable/not OR. Hence why I categorized those two separately.
I obviously support two levels - baseline quality and expanded baseline quality
I believe the 17 points I identified in my essay are a more exact and complete list of quality requirements.
I have a problem with #2, on neutrality. The problem is, in articles that present highly specialized knowledge, an average or uninformed outsider cannot jusge whether the article is neutral. At best, they can judge whether it has the appearance of neutrality and for anyone who has lived in the US, this is precisely why so many people make fun of FOX news and even some CNN or other cable news shows, because they use certain techniques to provide the image of neutrality but to anyone who knows the topic, it is not neutral.
In order to judge real neutrality, one has to be able to know how to know what is or is not a fringe view. Also, neutrality may not be achieved by producing "both" sides (which is why in many articles on complex topics committed editors often have to argue with newbies (at least, to the article) why a "criticisms" section would not be appropriate.) Diverging views often do not fall along a one dimensional axis. What is more important than providing a pro and a con side, is providing multiple views that emerge and carry weight in particular contexts. This is common in the social sciences and humanities. When it comes to a host of social science issues, there is a popular debate over "nature versus nurture" and predictably people expect there to be three views (nature, nurture, or half and half). An uninvolved or typical user may see these three sides provided in the article on race and intelligence and confirm that the articl is neutral. But to sociologists studying differences in average IQ scores between Blacks and Whites in the US, there are many debates, none of which have anything to do with nature versus nurture. Geneticists doing twin studies to calculate the heritability of intelligence also are debating a couple of hot issues, that are really not well-explained using terms like nature versus nurture. A sociologist or geneticist reading the article would see it as a typical article addressing common questions lay-people have, but doing nothing to educate the general public about current scientific research. You would need someone who knows something abour sociology or genetics to say YES - this article is providing a neutral account of the different views of sociologists and geneticists on the issues they are debating.
As far as I am concerned this is a really serious issue - but it only concenrs may be 1% of the articles. For this 1% one needs indeed to invite experts etc, but for the purpose of tagging the quality I am inclined to say - ok, let us have a special tag "highly specialized article where the neutrality can not be checked", and then put this tag and draw an attention of the specialized project.
If we're going to distinguish between "baseline quality" and "featured quality", we're going to have to distinguish between "basically neutral" and "completely neutral".
A rigorous report might survey all the major economists on health care to come up with a fair weighting of perspectives. They would cover the different economic/ethical/political viewpoints, leave out some fringe views, and support it all with substantial data. If it was significant, they would give some weight to emerging perspectives, noting that it is a reasonable but frequently debated viewpoint. That's a completely neutral article. It achieves our highest standards of "NPOV".
That means that a basically neutral article might have systemic bias. It might be CNN's facile "here are two perspectives", with no supporting data to critically evaluate those perspectives, and no interest in a third or fourth perspective that doesn't fit neatly into the X vs Y storyline. "Liberals assert that public health care is the best way to cover everyone, but conservatives note that this would be costly." No economic studies about costs, economies of scale, pooled risk, monopsonies for pharmaceuticals, etc... If you're lucky, some anecdotes about a few people's bad experiences with different health care systems. I would never present this as an authoritative source about health care. But would it be basically neutral? Probably. (Unless someone cherrypicked CNN stories to prove a point).
I shudder to concede that it would be "basically neutral". But I think that's what we mean when we say "baseline standard". It's basically trustworthy, with a few asterisks* that would need to be expanded upon.
Concur with Yaroslav. This is a baseline intended to help improve the 2 million articles and establish an expectation that all articles quickly meet a baseline standard. The few articles where an average user cannot judge good baseline, are outliers (ie, exceptions, or "1%" as Yaroslav says). They aren't in any way the majority or even a large minority. They will surely need specialist editing and review as Slrubenstein says.
The aim here is to establish "should/must meet baseline" as THE expectation, for all content, to the point ideally that no editor would think of allowing articles to not meet that standard, like no usual editor would think 3RR is inactionable. A bright line.
The fact that bright line will not sufficiently check 100% of articles but only 99%, is not necessarily a problem for the while. I think it was Philippe who said "perfect is the enemy of good". Once we get most content that way and the expectation that "all articles must be quickly made to meet baseline and kept that way", then we can look at what more (if anything) is needed for the exceptional cases.
@ Randomran: agree in principle. Perfect NPOV is not trivial because it means reviewing and knowing the field neutrally. But a basic level of neutrality should be attainable as a minimum, to the point where a reasonable editor peer reviewing the article feels it's not glaringly unbalanced. As you say, a can of worms, but the guiding principle is a good one and will help. We can discuss the rest in a few years time, once that step's achieved :)
A thought just struck me. Suppose an article gets to a sufficiently high standard (whatever that is for the topic). Then even a good, capable, editor, may well degrade the article without meaning to, by their edits. Less experienced, knowledgable or well intentioned editors may do more harm. In short as an article reaches a high quality, the pool of even experienced knowledgable good-faith editors who can competently judge what improves it and what doesn't, decreases.
Logic suggests that perhaps an article of sufficiently high quality should have its mainspace edits restricted somehow, because this seems such a predictable effect across all articles.
Specifically, it's probably the single leading cause of content erosion, and a major cause of degradation across all high quality content.
Examples of how that might be done consistent with retaining other users' input include systems such as flagged revisions, or tags restricting all editors other than having evidenced trust in the topic to the talk page (eg other than users assessed by the relevant project-wide WikiProject, or trivial "housekeeping" edits unlikely to affect quality).
Worth noting and perhaps a bit of discussion, even though concerns would exist of course, and probably too narrow to be a "recommendation" anyway (low hanging fruit etc).
I definitely made this point twice (with the LT I have difficulties finding it), and I am pretty sure we are also discussing it as a separate thread. I fully agree that this is the problem; I believe for quality articles once should use the talk page to write a plan / contents of the article, including not just finished stuff, but also the work to do. May be some articles we consider ideal (smth like a FA?) can be stabilized by a flagged revisions mechanism or protected altogether.
I figured it's worth its own thread for two reasons
- It does not just affect "ideal" articles. Any article of high quality is prone to this; the higher quality, the fewer editors competent and the more chances of good tfaith editing reducing quality.
- Any concept that implied not "anyone can edit" would be a very sensitive issue.
I think we should just recognize that there is a number of quality levels and each level has its own standards. Lowering the standards to an inferior level is unacceptable. Not anyone can edit is a sensitive issue indeed and we have to think out our strategy very well. Usually the argument goes that for instance not everyone can edit semi-protected articles, but still we semi-protect them sometimes. Or vandalism gets reverted even though everyone can edit.
This is a low-hanging fruit idea... but it's a good one. Once an article reaches featured status, there's no reason we shouldn't lock it down, at least partially. It doesn't need to be a hard lock. It can be a soft lock that keeps out IPs and new accounts, and even then, make it easy to request an unlock if you see a serious problem.
On ru.wp we stabilize FA and GA - meaning the new edits are not visible to unregistered readers until these edits get flagged. This is another option. But in principle I agree - there may be specific issues for specific projects, but on general we have means to restrict editing.
Noting that "restricting editing" doesn't mean any of the doomsday scenarios some may think.
It means when an article has reached a high quality, the risk of loss of quality is very large for all but trivial and "Housekeeping" edits. So this could mean...
- Talk page for people who aren't experienced on the topic...
- WikiProject referees review periodically and identify problem edits that may not be "bad" but have lowered quality...
Or to prohibit all edits which can not be marked as trivial (updates, ref adding etc) without prior discussion of the future edits on the talk page or even reporting to the project.
Plus using flagged revisions as I pointed out in the previous message. This is not really 'restricted editing" but sort of.
I think that there are some things we can do, involving the level of protextion, for example. I think this is an important thread that may produce some valuable points. But I would like to make one point:
Maybe you all were involved in Everything2 while I was still learing how to use e-mail. But I came to Everything2 and Wikipedia around the same time. At that time, Everything2 had WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY more articles than WIkipedia. Everything2 had some complex system whereby the more edits one made the higher one's rank was, which gave certain privileges, including rting articls, and the more one's own article had high ratings, the higher one would go. I think Everything2 is still around so you can check it out. it was a complex system but it was open to everyone and clearly meant to ensure that while being open to everyone those who had developed their commitment and skill over time would have more say oer the ranking of Everything2 essays.
Since that time, WP overtook Everything2 at Warp Speed.
I think a big reason is that Wikipedia was much more about collaborating on encyclopedia articles rather than each editor just expressing his or her own views, I think narcisists though we may all a little bit be, people like being part of some grander vision. I think another reason was that only a very active and interactive community, guided by policies, controled content and anyone really could edit and in a way be an equal.
I opened up an account at Everything2 shortly before I registered at WP. I do not think I have looked at Everything2 for five or six years.
My point here echoes one I made above, on not reinventing the tree. Check out Everything2's system for encouraging committed editors and quality or (and I think this mattered more at Everything2) original and interesting essays. You might discover that some of your ideas have at least a passing resemblence to their ideas. I say this as a caution, because I think we should keep in the front of our minds why Wikipedia so out-paced Everything2, and it had to with the anyone can edit spirit.
I agree we have matured and crossed certain thresholds. But unless we go private and I start getting royalty checks, I think we need to be very careful about what limitations we put on editing. Our biggest strength has always been our biggest weakness. Well-informed editors (e.g. people with multiple PhDs) have always won at Wikipedia through a combination of patience and the common sense and sensibilities of a handful of other, allied editors, who could outwait trolls and POV-pushers. Would I like to see a more robust way to rid ourselves of trolls and POV-pushers? Sure! But not at the risk of giving up our greatest strength, mixed-blessing though it is.
I am very serious, in suggesting others check out Everything2 if they do not already know about it. before we recommend any kind of restrictions or gradations or quality controls (none of which I oppose in principle) I urge you to see other experiments on the WWW, see what they did, and what the results were.
The discussion about restricting editing in some cases, is about a very small minority of articles:
- Articles that have achieved high quality content that's being eroded: Featured articles or similar level, as needed topic-by-topic
- Articles where consensus agrees they require very knowledgeable or specialist editors, such as the natural sciences, where even well-meaning editors may easily and inadvertently degrade their quality without meaning to: Scientific and specialist articles written to a high quality already, or where misunderstanding and mis-informed editing is easy even by experienced well-meaning editors
- Troubled articles: with endemic warring or POV issues, where other remedies fail, where placing the article for a while in the custodianship of users who are recognized by the community as capable of handling all kinds of difficult topic issues, may be the best way to get it back on the rails again.
It's not (underline not) being mooted as a proposal that would cover most or all articles. Just those few especially vulnerable articles which particularly suffer in quality terms without something like it.
As extra social benefits, it encourages a high standard of editorship; a quality oriented community; mass uptake of a higher standard of editing (this isn't intended to be just a rare thing like adminship; I'd like to see most regular editors encouraged to meet this standard - tens of thousands in the long run!); recognition of experienced editors (useful for newcomers). These affect all editors, and all articles.
I would like to add to the above that we are not trying to replace Wikipedia with Citizendum; we are trying to combine the strengths and to avoid the weaknesses of both. Clearly for the majority of the articles the approach ´everyone can edit' suits the most prefectly (provided we have some quality control). However, there are areas outlined by FT2, where I have doubts: in fact, for some articles editing can degrade the quality. We are taking in this thread about these articles (right now a minority) and their principal contributors.
Okay, hee is how I would word any proposed new rule: that once an article has reached a certain level, and evidence can be its stability, for example that it has not been edited for three months, although other criteria may be needed) all new edits must first be discussed on the talk page.
I am trying to find a positive rather than a negative wording, that is, rather than "You cannot do x" say "You have to do y;" rather than creating a restriction, create a new condition or stage to the editing process. I think this is more in spirit with the Wikipedia ethos and will have the desired effect.
This is in fact what hapens at many articles. The Jesus article is pretty good and pretty stable. Every once in a while someone makes a big edit and it is usually instantly reverted and the editor told to discuss it on the talk page. This system works - talk on the talk page quickly identifies or explains why the edit is dumb, or discussion leads to a qucik consensus that it is a real improvement. I think this is how things pretty much work at the Evolution article, another article that is very stable and very good.
So, I would be all for a rule that, once an article has met certain conditions, all new edits have to be proposed and discussed on the talk page first. And this would apply equally to all editors, there would be no discrimination against editors - only against the proposed edit itself.
Yes, I think this is pretty much in line with what we have discussed. Let me try to formulate what articles would this rule apply to:
- Quality articles (to find a more precise definition; for instance these with GA and FA status; or these longer than certain size and where there is some consensus about on the talk page);
- Articles on highly specialized topics where a big contribution of a non-expert is likely to lower the quality (to be determined by the projects?);
- Articles where edits are likely to be NPOV or cause edit warring (these have to stay protected anyway).
All these articles must be clearly tagged; minor technical editing is allowed without prior discussion at the talk page.
Yes, something like this. For me what is important is a change in current Wikipedi practice; right now we have levels of protection (anyone, registered users, or admins) - this is meant to deal with vandalism.
Now we are talking about quality and I do not think that using a hierarchy of editors is the solution. You are suggesting a different system, and i am not sure how it coule be put into practice technically but I like it: when the three condtions you describe exist, major edits must be discussed on the talk page first.
I like the rule. But ho wdo we enforce it?
We ould just go on the honor system.
We might ask Jimbo or Tim Starling whether it is possible to create a system whereby an edit has to be approved by three diffefrent editors before it is made. This would be a little complicated - someone dits the page but the edit remains in the "preview" stage until two other people sign on. This would require some real reworking of the software. Is it worth exploring?
The alternative is just to make it policy. But we would then have in effect what we already have at the jesus and Evolution articles, which is, virtually any major edit is reverted and there is discussion on the talk page. So are you basically looking for a way to turn this kind of current practice into policy?
Either way I am all for it.
"All edits must be discussed" is going to be very restrictive. For example I might develop an article to GA, then wish to develop it further. I see the point you're making but it comes across this way:
"All editors must be mandatorily equal, even if in fact their capabilities/skills/aptitudes are not equal. So if an article is of a high standard, a user known to be a skilled capable editor in the topic, must be held to the same restrictions as an unskilled, uninformed or inexperienced editor in the field, because equal editing is obligatory: reduce one, reduce all."
I can see that frustrating or deterring skilled editors. At the level of editing we're talking about, of high quality or technical articles, it does become reasonable to say some users have the skill and others do not.
For example I could not be sure of editing a technical page on some mathematical topic, and not disturbing the meaning, however carefully I worked. But I would not want to see a PhD holder on topology or group theory held back merely becaue I need to avoid such edits.
I would prefer some philosophy where anyone can gain recognition of their capability, and in that sense, editing high quality or technically exact topics is open to all.
May be it sounds too simplistic, but if I see a GA which I want to improve, why do not I compile a business proposal on the talk page: I want to add such-and-such material to such-and-such section using these sources? If everybody approves or if there is no reaction for a week, I may go on to edit the article.
I think an article can reach a certain point - where its coverage is relatively complete - where expets can justifiably be treated like any other editor. Why? Well, if an article reaches the stage Yaroslav is talking about, what would a PhD add? It would well be something that is cutting edge but controversial - remember one thing a PhD means is that someone has a "license" to join some very rarified debates. To lay-people, a PhD is an authority and it is true that they know a lt about some things. But academic fields exist because they continue to do research so areas of knowledge are still areas of debate. So yeah, under these conditions I can see a need for discussion.
Or the PhD may just wish to explain something more clearly. But every 101 instructor has diferent experiences wih students and diferent ways of introducing complex ideas. Even this is something experts can debate.
Or let's say I as an expert wish to edit the animism article. Believe it or not there are people today who use computers in English and call themselves animists and they have very different ideas of what animism is than I as an ojective scientist have So we have NPOV issues. How do we present such diferent accounts in a balanced way? Here too I see value to discussion on the tak page.
== FT2 I really am trying to take seriously yuour original point: "Suppose an article gets to a sufficiently high standard (whatever that is for the topic). Then even a good, capable, editor, may well degrade the article without meaning to, by their edits." I can see this happening even if both people have PhDs. That is why I think th requirement to discuss before editing is a constructive requriement.
I appreciate that. My feeling is that like with any action or edit that needs a degree of skill, experience, awareness, or knowledge, there will be some editors who gain widespread trust to do these, and others who don't yet have that trust.
Analogy: suppose we reinvented admin tools on this basis. Then all editors would be equal; no admin could delete or protect a page without discussion, because we want to stop unsuitable deletes and protections by less experienced users. So all users can delete or protect - but all must obtain clear consensus and discuss first.
We don't work that way. We agree some users are trusted to use these appropriately and others aren't. The openness is that anyone can show a high standard and anyone can gain that ability; those who can't or don't wish to can request actions be done for them.
I feel that at the higher end of editing, a similar philosophy is appropriate - users who are recognized by the community as capable of editing those topics to a very high standard, should not be hindered from doing so, just because most editors (like myself) lack that degree of specialist recognized subject knowledge.
How do we stop PhDs from mis-editing and such? We don't base it on PhDs. We base it on recognition by other editors in the field. I can see problems with that as well, but philosophically rules exist to help not hinder and I'm concerned holding excellent editors back will hinder.
Sysops can only block someone when there is a clear policy violation that explicitly calls for a block, or when there is an actual community consensus for a block. So in the first instance, the act of the admin is pretty automatic; in the second case, well, in fact acmins DO require patience to see what the community consensus is before acting.
In neither case can I imagine something comperable for content.
I just do not see a good comparison between admins and what you are wondering about.
The methods used by Nupedia or Everything2 seem - for better or worse - to be more relevant to your concerns and objctives than our admin system.
As to your general principle, I think we already have it in practice. Most articles are supported by a handful of editors who watch it regularly. They all have a pretty good sense of one another's expertise. When I see a major edit of the Jesus article by AndrewC or Leadwind, well, if I disagree with it i will say so on the talk page but it has been years since i have reverted an edit by either one of them because i have come to recognize their expertise, similarly with PaulB - he and I often disagree and argue on talk pages but i know his expertise and haven't reverted him for ages. Now, if a newwbie comes and reverts one of these guys, I or several other people will likely restore the edit, again because we know of their expertise.
All of this is context dependent i.e. depends on the article. To me, this is the "Wikipedia way" actually working - we have a community of editors who can edit any time and the accumulated force of many editors who recognize expertise outweighs the recless edits of a handful of pov warriors. It works!
The only time it doesn't work is in cases where people with clear expertise in diferent fields come into conflct and this requires mediation. I dono tsee how ranking experts wouldhelp.
So I can see a need for radically fixing our terrible and practically useless mediation cabal/mediation mechanism - this is a real problem.
But otherwise I am not sure I get what you are proposing.
Basically, you are saying that the system of distinguished editors already exists - it is just not formalized and based on Wikipedia-gained respect rather than on external-world-gained respect. On the other hand it is not stable - I am not sure whether this is the case on en.wp, but on smaller projects it happens very often that a respected editor after several years loses interest, and then he is not capable of tracing "his" articles anymore. Preserving the quality of these articles even after their creator retires is an important issue but I am not sure it belongs to this tread.
Just realized what tread I was writing in. It certainly does.
I agree with what Yaroslav says, but wasn't this the idea of Danny Wool's project - to take Wikipedia articles that had reached just this level of goodness (sorry, "quality") and put them together in an un-editable form?
Or is FT2 looking for something in between what Danny was trying to do, and what we currently have?
I think FA or GA combined with a level of protection may be the answer. I still do not like the idea of Wikipedians creating a formal class of respected wise people. How about another level of protection, in between "new and unregistered users" and "all non-admin users" how about another category "block all users who have been registered for only one year or who have fewer than 5,000 edits" or something like that? Which would go automatically with a certain level of accredation?
Okay, this leaves the problem of newbies who are PhDs on the topic. Those who have only a little to offer Wikipedia, who do not wish to register, can leave on the talk page a suggested edit; in fact, I have seen many unregistered users do this.
Also, I am still concerned that some newbie experts really do not understand NPOV, v, and NOR, or the fact that what they write really is NOT their property ... I still think even great experts can benefit from learning the ropes like anyone else.
Firstly, who would judge when an article meets a sufficiently high standard when a good, capable editor may well degrade it without meaning to? Frankly, isn't that true of all articles? It's plainly true that any editor "may well" degrade any article accidentally, and accidents happen to the best of us.
Secondly, just because an editor "may well" degrade something without meaning to, does that mean we should restrict them from trying to make improvements?
Finally, does the passage of time ever change facts in high quality articles? Facts that anyone would be able to update?
Concerning the last part of your statement, I definitely think that minor amendments including the updates may be made by everybody without any discussion.
Concerning the first point: right now in all projects (as far as I know) community votes for FA/GA. It should be the same of different mechanism to find a consensus that the article is of superior quality (well above the baseline level). Whether it should be a GA/FA I do not care so much at this stage. But after such consensus has been found, the community should be very careful about adding big pieces of text in the article.
This is a new point, but I think it gets at a major problem with Wikipedia. I may just be restating something we have already talked about. But when Larry and Jimbo created this encyclopedia "anyone" could edit, I think they assumed that everyone knows SOMETHING and that each person would edit on the topics they knew something about. A huge proportion of the problems we have with maintaining quality is when people edit articles on topics they do NOT know much about. The point I derive from this observation is the following: aside from trying to attract more experts, another way to improve quality would be to find more ways to encourage people who are NOT experts on academic topics to stick to editing articles on things they know. If we kep them busy editing articles on stuff they really know about, keep giving people something to do, they will be less likely to try to improve articles on stuff they know litle about.
I am sorry if this is bnal.
It is not banal, but "I think they assumed that everyone knows SOMETHING and that each person would edit on the topics they knew something about. " is an overstatement. The slogan "The encyclopedia that anyone can edit" is often (mis)read as "The encyclopedia that ANYONE can edit" rather than "The encyclopedia that anyone can EDIT", editting an encyclopedia being something that requires skill, discipline and knowledge. The emphasis is often placed wrong, on "ANYONE CAN" rather than on "EDIT" (or on "ENCYCLOPEDIA").
Your point above that "people with multiple PhDs) have always won at Wikipedia through a combination of patience and the common sense and sensibilities of a handful of other, allied editors, who could outwait trolls and POV-pushers" may well be true for those pages that enjoy the attention of these "people with multiple PhDs and lots of friends". However, for most pages on Wikipedia these wonderful volunteers are just not there, resulting in what we have now. Those articles guarded by "people with multiple PhDs and lots of friends" may well be doing allright, but unless you have an infinite supply of such users, a different solution will be necessary for many (most?) articles. - Brya 05:35, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
Even though I stated my opinion in this thread, I see that we basically can not agree on this point, and the point itself is very important. I believe the reason we can not agree is that each of us has a different picture in mind, and this picture is based on his/her own experience and not substantiated by any data. I think the only thing we can propose by mid-january concerning this topic is to make a quality research. This research should, in particular, give an answer to the question we disagree about: how serious is the statement that the quality articles get their quality degraded as a result of edits by different categories of users.
If everybody agrees on this point, we better close this thread and start a new one where we can discuss how this study could look like: what could the questions be and what answers we would like to see.
Do we really disagree? I suggested creating another level of protection, below admin and above registered user, that could be used in some cases. I also suggested the possibility of creating a system where a certain number of people have to agree before an edit is made to an article - this is a new mechanism of protection but can be used with FA or GA articles. Can you clarify where you see the fault-line that you think cannot be overcome?
Above, Philippe suggested a way to gather data on degredation. I don't think it is a bad idea. In any event there has not been much discussion, so if you are referring to that i think it is premature to say we cannot reach any agreement.
Or do I misunderstand you?
Yes, in particular, I am referring to Philippe's post. There have also been questions in other treads on whether the problem of degrading the quality really exists or we made it up. Also someone was objecting to creation of an extra level of users even though we are still discussing it.
My understanding is that we need to deliver recommendations in less than three weeks from now (Jan 12). Obviously we do not have time to perform any research, but we can include a recommendation to perform this research.
Research doesn't have to be hard, but it will take time. Even a few case studies of featured articles would help illustrate the problem. There must be hundreds of articles that hit featured article review, and were demoted to a lower class.
If ore research is needed to establish with some confidence a precise diagnosis of our problems, well, I am not sure that means it is a waste of our time to come up with solutions. What can we do with the time we aside from brainstorm? I think the best thing we can do is this: brainstorm up five or six or a dozen suggestions - along with specifics about what conditions muct exist for the suggested "solution" to be worth implimenting, and ideas about what kind of data is needed to know whether the problem is real. isn't this sort of how much hypothesis-driven research works? We imagine possibilities first, and then go out and see if data supports the imagined case. I am just going one step further - if we suspect that degradation is a problem, but do not have the time to do the research we nevertheless brainstorm some proposed solutions. Then, if it turns out the problem is real, they know what to do.
What is the alternative? If we do not have the time to prove that anything we think is a problem is actually a problem, do we just quit now? I still see our charge as proposing solutions. All solutions are going to be to some problem that is more specific than "problem with quality." So for any solution we come up with, someone can say: do we have the data to prove that the problem is real? I think this same challenge could be used to halt discussion of any proposed solution.
My response: so what? Let's brainstorm solutions, make clear what specific problems each solution is meant to address, and leave it to the next step, to do the research to see if the problem we hypothesize is out there.
In a way, I am saying that every solution one of us may come up with is premised on our own sense of what problems plague Wikipedia. Thinking through the solutions we envision helps us define the problem more precisely and clearly, and that will make it easier for people in the next stage to decide whether there is adequate evidence for the problem.
I do not see this as a waste of time. When a hypothesis is falsified, the research was not a waste of time.
In Action Research, imagining solutions is simply part of the research design. It is not a waste of time.
I agree with this. When you're putting together a strategy, you can't let a lack of research be a barrier. You have to put something actionable together, based on what evidence you can find. Then, once you have the action, it may even be easier to do the research. A blind research-hunt is not as productive as focused hypothesis testing.
- My own view
My own view has been quite shaped by previous comments, such as the points others have made about degradation of high quality articles. I have come around to think they're right, higher quality is harder to preserve and this natural (inevitable) fact leads to a natural "content erosion" issue. Some articles are well watched and they do well, but many (especially on smaller projects or niche areas) are not, and don't.
I am in favor of some kind of system that an article reaching a high enough quality can't always be edited "anyway and by anyone", because I can see that even reputable well meaning editors (myself included) can accidentally lower quality in many cases.
- Yaroslav's comment
But as a fall-back I notice Yaroslav's comment earlier in the thread:
- I think the only thing we can propose by mid-january concerning this topic is to make a quality research. This research should, in particular, give an answer to the question we disagree about: how serious is the statement that the quality articles get their quality degraded as a result of edits by different categories of users.
- If everybody agrees on this point, we better close this thread and start a new one where we can discuss how this study could look like: what could the questions be and what answers we would like to see.
I think there is some good sense in it. I would endorse suggesting WMF considers research that targets articles which reach high quality levels (on major wikis and minor, or in niche areas requiring technical knowledge or more general areas, with many watchers/interested editors or few)
But my gut reaction says we have 80% of it right here, because we're all experienced editors. It happens, we know roughly what factors lead to it, and we know that the "anyone can edit" ethos itself is behind it. Whether that's restricted by allowing all editors to propose edits and some to check them for quality, regular review of the article to check for lowering of quality every few months, flagged revisions or some other kind of protection/restriction software, "3 editors must endorse any edit", or whatever, we know the basic issue.
Saying "this is a genuine and important problem and should be considered in any future work" would probably be best for us. It's obvious we won't resolve it today nor is a good solution likely to arise that makes it into our "4 main recommendations".
This is not to say this is a "bad" idea. To the contrary, it's a very valuable thread - crucially so. But probably not one whose "time has come" - more pressing priorities, not where we need to be to tackle it well, not really sure how best to hit it, no real research. For us I think, valid issue but its time hasn't come, we can't helpfully do much except note it for future reflection.
But a valid area and still worth discussing despite this thought. Very much so.
My colorful comment.
Making GA/FA/FL is something but not the Big deal, keeping their status is the real one.
More acknowledgment should be given the editors keeping those articles in line compared to the hype around editors making GA/FA/FL.
I personally have more respect for an editor participating to GAs rescue during GA Re-Assessment Drive, keeping 8 GAs and failing twice than for an editor making 10 GAs.
More funny is editors boasting GA/FA in their user page and yet awfully absent during those articles re-assessment leaving the "job" to editors who will not boast about rescuing an article in their user page. Worse is case of editors boasting GA/FA while those articles articles are now delisted as such.
If you boast a GA/FA/FL in your user page have at least the courtesy to be present when the article get re-assessed.
Wikipedia is already doing a decent job of maintaining featured content, so I appreciate FT2's comment that this is not a priority.
So let me pivot to "Senior Editors".
KrebMarkt raises a really good point. Re-assessment is often as intensive as writing the good or featured article itself. This one took a lot of work and a lot of people collaborating on it. For an editor trying to prove their "senior editor" status, both Featured Article and Featured Article Review should count equally. (Or close to it.)
There are several reasons that the FA/FL (and FAR/FLR) requirement makes sense for "Senior Editors":
- It's a consensus process, and can't be claimed by one editor's bias.
- It's proof that you understand quality.
- It's proof that you're COMMITTED to quality. (I think there are those who understand it, but have too much an agenda to commit to it.)
- If you don't understand all the policies and processes that help quality, writing a featured article is excellent training.
- If you do understand quality, then writing a featured article is within reach.
And there are a few bonuses:
- It's something we want editors to do anyway. (More featured articles? Yes please!)
- There is a high correlation between FA work and survival time. FA editors last longer.
The only thing it doesn't cover is the behavioral aspect. But even then, the FA process requires interacting with so many editors, so it counts even halfway in my books. What's the fastest and most direct way to assess a quality editor? By assessing the quality of their articles.
Slight difference of outlook, because I'm pointing this a slightly different direction.
If you want the absolute best editors, then yes. What you're suggesting would get the top few percent of editors.
I'm aiming slightly differently. I'm not after editors who can reliably write to FA/FL standard. I'm after editors who have a cogent understanding of Wikipedia core editing principles, backed by editing history that shows they use it in practice. I'm after mass acquisition of that recognition, not the equivalent of adminship where very few (proportionally) get it and very few (proportionally) seek it.
I want to see this as a widespread "mass obtain" thing, after a year or so. Reasons above. I think that might be slightly different in philosophical stance, reasoning, and outlook than you're describing.
If we want it to be more expansive (which is a different target, but something I support), I still think the formula is fundamentally sound. We want editors to have a track record of quality editing, and we may as well use processes that already exist.
What's a step lower than FA and GA? Not much exists. "Did You Know...?" Maybe peer review, or other conversations about content. But we'll soon have a new process for quality: baseline quality.
I think there would be a huge synergy in having these two recommendations (the baseline article and the senior editor) reinforce each other. Raise more articles to baseline quality by dangling the carrot of "senior" status. And, at the same time, boost the credibility of that status by tying it to an applied understanding of baseline quality.
You're right on the synergy. Not only they have potential to work very well in a package, but that way they may well gain better traction too.
Getting them into "a package" isn't so straightforward. It needs some thought. Their requirements are at a different level. One is "get articles to a minimal acceptability" and the other is "evidenced understanding and consistent use of core wiki editing principles". Not quite sure how to synergize them? But worthwhile looking at it, for the reasons you accurately suggest.
I don't think tying this to existing process is viable though. While we can use existing process as evidence of meeting some criteria, no current process exists at all, that would reflect this marker overall.
Maybe we should move this to "trusted/senior editors" as better suited to that thread.
We don't need to package them together-together, like in a single recommendation. But you could definitely build on them. Recommendation 1: create a simple baseline quality standard. Recommendation 2: create a senior editor status for people who understand and apply that baseline.
Might be a good idea to start having discussions at the actual recommendation pages? Or to set up a new centralized discussion page that aims at trying to pin down the top four?
Actually I am not sure whether we should require senior/trusted editors to have their own GA/FA (I personally have 2FAs, 1GA and 2FL, so it is not personal). I know many editors who are strong POV-pushers but in the end of the day manage to get their articles voted for FA, may be with the extreme help of other editors who bring them to a neutral form, may be not from the first time. I also know many editors who perfectly understand the basic rules and the Five pillars, but who just do not write long articles and have never made a FA. I believe therefore that quality preservation of FA/GA and the status of senior editor are two different things. They are related of course but there is no one to one correspondence.
My only personal experience of articles which have been degraded over time would be those about fantasy fiction, specifically Harry Potter while the books were still being written. In that case one faction was degrading contend by quoting rules about sourcing to remove content they felt did not belong on wikipedia. I mention this because actually I dont think I know any more conventional articles where I feel the general standard has fallen over time, though various bad edits appear from time to time. What I have noticed is some articles which have been stripped of FA or GA status after a year or two has elapsed and suddenly someone has noticed they are not up to standard. Except that the articles were never degraded. Instead the standards changed so that they no longer met them. I think it a huge mistake to presume that todays GA or FA standard defines the best attainable article, because about the only thing I would say with confidence is that the standards will have changed by next year.
I have also noticed that editors become overprotective about articles. Half a dozen people come to a compromise about content and then defend it against all comers. This is pretty much guaranteed not to be the best possible article, just the one they are willing to stick on. This is a very questionable thing to defend against fresh minds who come across it and see plain flaws.
And as a third point, FAs contain fundamental errors. Maybe this is part of what is bothering people, but the standard so hotly being defended is only as good as the knowledge of those people already present. A total stranger comes by and sees an error of fact which he changes and immediately gets pounced upon. Yet he was right and those present wrong. He cant produce sources off the top of his head, and since he was just passing why would he go to the trouble? People here seem to be arguing about the risk to articles of degradation but are missing the opportunity for advancement. Those articles got to their present level by random chance. Why will this mechanism suddenly fail? The reality is that a contribution is a contribution. Sooner or later someone interested in a page comes along and works on it. This process includes examining the pages history for good and bad old content. The entire history of edits may be regarded as a body of research notes about the topic. Many of these proposals seem to be saying we no longer want new contributions, thank you, and this is very short sighted. Wikipedia is nowhere near that good yet. Any scheme to try to preserve a fair copy as the presentation page of an article must not place further bariers in the way of new contributors (and these are mounting all the time). Sandpiper 02:20, 20 January 2010 (UTC)
I have seen many examples of degrading quality, even with the articles I created myself (I am not even talking about GA/FA). Check how many times per year someone changes the birthplace of Britney Spears from Maccombe, Mississippi to Kentwood, Louisiana. These edits get reverted quickly, but still they are there. Somebody comes and puts a big unformatted piece of text, and one has to spend hale an hour checking whether this text is not a copywright violation, and then may be hours to check whether it is factually correct. I created a list of urban agglomerations with the population over a million on ru.wp. It is explicitly written that the list is based on 2007 data from a single source, and still frequent casual editors want to promote their agglomeration by updating the population to an unsourced number and moving it up (without, of course, updating the others). Recently I had somebody overnight editing 10 of the articles I created on Norway related topics, and putting templates and extra pictures to make the articles look in the ugliest possible way. And I can provide dozens of more exaples. We are not even talking on adding urban legends to articles not marking them as urban legends, or somebody who have heard smth from his friend and decided to add this material to Wikipedia.
Fundamentally you are saying that the general public cannot be trusted to write articles. Yet the conclusion of the experiment run here on wikipedia, is that this is not true. From the very first sentence added to an article, paticularly one likely to interest a lot of people, someone will come forward and either vandalise it or add something incorrect. Yet every single article which anyone here might put forward as so good as deserving special treatment has got that way by the general public contributing to it and while all this interference carries on. You and I are members of the public who just happened to get interested and contributed. In the case of each example you talk about, did you leave them in what you considered this degraded state, or did you put them back as you thought they ought to be? I suspect you put them back together, which in effect means that no harm was done to the article. What you seem to be complaining about is that a certain amount of housekeeping is needed to keep the articles in a tidy state. In what way is there more of this work than there was when the article was of poor quality? Probably, as a good article with ongoing interference it is always in a better state, more accurate and informative to readers, than it was in the past when it was overall a bad article. If that is the case, how is the article failing in what it is supposed to do, which is inform readers? I expect, as with most determined editors, you are pretty good at whatever the topic is in the articles you have worked on, but it would be a pretty bigheaded editor who claimed he was the very best person in the whole world to judge the quality of that article and declare it complete and finished. Far more accurate to presume that someone else will come along one day who will improve the article. Or many people, even if what they contribute is just a half sentence accompanied by a paragraph of junk which has to be sifted out. Over control of an article stifles change, which is the only way a wiki article can improve once those already contributing to it have done all they can.
Another way to look at what you are saying is, I think, that you have made it as good as you can, so it should be fixed that way. You are tired of doing nothing more than maintain it, which admittedly is not nearly as much fun as writing it, so everyone should be prevented from changing it again. Snap your fingers and fix wiki exactly as it is. How many articles are no better than they were one year ago? How many will be not the tiniest bit better in one years time? I think the answer is hardly any, and those will be the ones which no one is arguing over and messing with the content. Are you surprised that it becomes more and more difficult to improve an article as it gets better? Isnt that normal in anything you do? Do you think we should give up the effort of sifting new material and just declare them finished? I think there ought to be some kind of approved version of a page which the best experts we have, chosen by us somehow, have marked as a good version. But I also think abandoning the open page, continually changing version which all can work on would be a huge mistake and call the end to wikipedia improving. New people are just not going to go to the trouble of serving some sort of long apprenticeship for the privilege of donating their time. Sandpiper 19:25, 24 January 2010 (UTC)
Welcome to the think tank ;)
To be blunt editors willing to jump into a GA/FA article need a reality check first. These articles are among the most watched and where reverts occur often. At those levels, Verifiability isn't negotiable. Such articles are nothing but great pieces of verifiable stuffs and in no way receptacles of truth that something too many editors still can't live up with.
Editors wanting to edit GA/FA should have a good grasp of "Wikipedia Culture" or there contributions are more likely to be reverted. Facts probably true yet not proved with a good source should be left in the talk page.
For better or for worse, the culture at a featured article is to protect it from unverified additions. What's worse, the featured articles that aren't protected from such additions begin to erode, with more and more people hanging whatever statements they want. Inevitably, the article would get demoted. And if the article were fixed up to re-nominate it, the article would still come down to what we can verify.
We can't change that culture any more than we can say that America's official religion is now Buddhism. "Easier said than done."
KrebMarkt is right that the best solution probably has something to do with the talk page. If a reader saw something horribly wrong with a FA, a quick talk page comment would probably accomplish a lot more than a quick edit. Maybe the comment would accomplish nothing, but there's no maybe about the edit. It's a revert waiting to happen.
We should make it easier to leave a quick comment. You shouldn't even have to click on the talk page and do all that stuff. There should be a comment box for suggestions that are less than 200 characters. "This article made a huge mistake: the Roman Empire wasn't the first. The Greeks were." It should be as quick and easy as sending a text message.
I, in fact used Talk page as a "Fridge" for stuff probably true yet not verifiable within available editors capabilities.
Editors don't revert edits made in talk page unless it's vandalism or off-topic stuff or forum discussion like edits. Outside those situations reverting in talk page is a real violation of Good Faith and a form of censorship.
Even the worst fanboys/fangirls are permitted to voice their opinions in talk page.
Save some editors with Ego issues, editors want the very best for the articles they are working on just they have to cope with the Verifiability constraint. There is no question on who is bringing the new stuff.
An easy way to handle edits to high quality articles is to build a Wiki for Wiki 1.0 accepted versions and keep that Wiki in place until the next update (where articles are updated if they are better). Ottava Rima 17:52, 23 January 2010 (UTC)
some of the contributions here seem to me a bit optimistic about the verifiability of content in FA or GA articles. Anyone who is well enough informed would be able to take a wiki FA and find mistakes or omissions. My own experience where I know enough to pass judgment has given me examples of this and I am sure it must apply elsewhere. It is foolish to presume that a listed ref guarantees verifiability never mind accuracy. One sentence can contain multiple assertions which even if drawn from one source may originate on different pages and may be susceptible to misquotation, but may come from entirely different sources. I have yet to see anyone creating a bombproof verification system. Anyone wanting to have fun at wikis expense has merely to imply verifiability, and who can check it? I think you are also optimistic about the degree of watching taking place on GA and FA articles. On the other hand, many such pages have interested editors who will come by from time to time and have a look at what has been happening, and consider any new contributions. If they are responsibly trying to improve the article, then they will look out for possible new information and work on including it. That's how articles get better, so what's the problem?
Personally I don't jump into FA/GA articles, because I expect they will be of a high standard, that to improve one it is necessry to first read it carefully and understand how it is structured quite apart from what content it already has, and perhaps most importantly because such articles frequently have bloody-minded owners who absolutely hate anyone challenging the established status-quo. This last is a problem. It does no help articles to improve.Sandpiper 20:08, 24 January 2010 (UTC)
Let's assume for a second that you're right, that FAs have problems with verifiability and accuracy that can be best handled by outsiders. (You're at least right for a small subset of cases.) You are still confronted with two realities:
- We currently have a culture where FAs are guarded. "Revert!" Helpful edits are treated the same as low-quality edits, let alone disruptive edits.
- For the few FAs that aren't jealously guarded, helpful edits are treated the same as low-quality edits. The article degrades and loses its FA status. When it comes time to build the FA back up, any helpful edit that isn't properly sourced is probably discarded.
The end result? FA articles seldom get better.
We have to be realistic here. Slagging the "owners" of FAs will accomplish nothing. (Unless making ourselves feel better counts as something.)
I personally don't think FA or other articles generally have problems with verifiability. Normally they have problems with over fussy editors creating difficulties over points which they don't like but are disinterested in sorting out themselves. Such people are gaming the system to force others to do the work they should do themselves if they were really interested in improving quality. I think it grossly unhelpful that editors may go round identifying issues with articles and then delete chunks of text rather than researching and properly resolving whether a point is right or wrong. I never delete text unless I am sure it is wrong. Where there is some doubt I either leave the matter for another time and do nothing, or take some action, note it on talk or hunt for external info to resolve it. This may take months or years to resolve an issue but I do not see this as a problem. I regard it better to flag text with a warning than to delete it arbitrarily.
You seem to be coming dangerously close to the heresy that becoming an FA is a death sentence for an article as far as improvements are concerned. So you are saying that FA status is counter-productive in that it encourages editors to be possessive and impose their own fixed version of an article? Perhaps better that such articles should be left to simmer for a while before being reconstructed as an accepted version once again? Perhaps this is in fact the solution. Tag a specific version of an article as FA rather than the article itself, then allow it to evolve for a while before reconciling the result with the last FA. Obviously anyone who wants to maintain the quality of the current version can do so, but perhaps the article would be relieved of the artifical expectation of always having to appear perfect and could be allowed to be bad sometimes.
I also persist in the distinction between verifiability as a tool for readers and as a tool for editors. I think the great majority of wiki readers are not interested in references or verifiability. I do not look at an encyclopedia for information about where else to look for information, but for an immediate answer. References are an editors tool for assessing and improving content. As such they are a poor tool in comparison to common sense and experience. Frequently they are not accessible without significant effort and delay. I am not interested in whether an article has issues with verifiability, only with content. I far prefer an article to tell me about contentious things than not to mention them. But then I also think the world needs to learn how to use wiki, not try to recreate wiki as something which it is not. Maybe we should be pleased that a significant proportion of vandalistic errors in wiki are relatively obvious, whereas errors in scholarly works are frequently more subtle and only become apparent with hindsight. People here worry too much about building an appearance of accuracy which is anyway illusionary. The public needs to learn that no reference work is infallible.
I'm not saying it's close to stopping improvements. I'm saying that it DOES stop any improvement that is uncited. Only improvements with citations have a chance of sticking. Even when editors aren't possessive of a featured article, the statements that aren't cited inevitably bring down the article, and most are swiftly deleted when the article hits featured article review.
Your goals of encouraging openness and continuous improvement are something I totally understand and agree with. But you can't just ridicule the current process. We didn't just accidentally or thoughtlessly stumble across the processes we have now. We designed them over years of practice, discussion, and collaboration. There's a reason why we use "verifiability" as a standard instead of having perpetual arguments about "truth" or "accuracy". There's a reason that featured articles rest on that standard.
- Your first solution is to "allow featured articles to be bad".
- Your second solution is to throw verifiability out the window.
... Do you even realize how polarizing and antagonistic those ideas are? On a project that's based entirely around consensus and collaboration, you're going to say that all the other editors have agreed upon standards that are "counter-productive" and "poor tools", and then proceed to throw out ideas that those editors would never agree to?
I ask opinions on these proposed recommendations:
- Wikimedia projects need to support beginning editors of all ages, beginning language users, and the developmentally disabled
- Wikimedia projects need to treat their top-line volunteers at least as well as established educational, communications, and other respected nonprofit organizations treat their most important volunteers
- Wikimedia projects need to take concrete steps to ensure that they do not contradict established policies; for example:
- Implying that the elimination of anonymity could improve content quality; or
- Allowing obvious exceptions to established policies to stand.
- Wikimedia projects should use flagged revisions for biographies of living people
- Wikipedia needs a more diverse contributor base, and can achieve that by implementing outreach proposals, e.g.:
No objections to any of them? I intend to add them to Yaroslav's and sort them all by the ease with which they can be put in to effect.
Well, I read it as "no-support-whatsoever" and "not-worth-commenting-on". - Brya 04:54, 24 January 2010 (UTC)
If you are opposed to any or all, please share your reasons.
I think it's fine to have a discussion about them going forward, but they need to be separate from the task force's recommendations, which is now a closed process. We're still working out how to create a space for future discussion and recommendations such as these, but it won't be with the ones that the task forces hashed out previously.
I have concerns with 3.2 - there are times when an exception to a policy can be very important.
I also have concerns with item 4 - saying that projects should use Flagged Revs is fine now, but what about when something newer and shinier comes along? Do we then restrict ourselves to Flagged Revs? Couldn't it be worded in a different way to imply that the best possible tool should be used?
Particularly concerning point 4, I am all for the implementation of flagged revisions (though other task force members do not seem to share my enthusiasm), but I do not see any reason why they should be limited to BLP. FR is a system intended to guarantee the article quality and to place less work on editors. Do you imply we only care about the quality of BLP biographies?
- Themes and ideas from Archive 1:
- While anyone can edit anonymously, users who would prefer to edit non-anonymously (in some verifiable manner, eg academic email) are possibly an asset. They may tend to be less likely to sock/edit warring/disrupt (though some do), and may be more serious or have expert skills. They can in some cases add credibility as users with checkable credentials. And yet they are vulnerable to smearing/unfounded claims/attacks. Do we want to protect them better from attacks, smears, etc, or foster these kinds of editors?
As an academic, I can tell you that no academic would actually edit the articles in his/her own field (especially if the field is popular) if he/she would have to constantly fight with amateurs who have read in a popular journal about a marginal theory and want to introduce this theory to the article on par with the original theory. Or there are some cracks who have their own theories. I had one in my field on ru.wp who had his own theory of quantum capacitance, did not manage to publish a single article on this theory and still wanted to have this theory mentioned in relevant articles. The guy was harmless and did not even argue with me, he just created new articles which I had to delete.
I see two options here. One option is indeed to encourage academics to identify themselves with real people at academic institutions (may be the verification procedure can be run by OTRS) and give them a special status. My experience is that such a soultion will not be accepted by the majority of editors who feel that they are deprived of their rights and in some way discriminated. Another option whioch is more acceptable is to have a body of referees. They can be use to plan the articles, to evaluate the existing articles (for instance, to suggest adding/removing sections) and to advise on discussion points. I believe this is a Meta issue since it is unlikely that many referees will be found in one field, and it is best to concentrate their efforts on English articles and subsequently translate.
I don't think arbcoms and referees are useful for solving scientific discussions, because the arbitrators are usually amateurs themselves and can't make judgements about content.
A special status for scientists who operate under their own name is a very interesting proposal though.
Maybe (again) a multi-track approach. "Many users will wish to do X. Some will wish to do Y, We can accommodate the latter this way..."
Some expert users may prefer to give opinions on matters, offer insights, confirm current knowledge or accuracy, and answer specific questions. Just like some users want to write FA's, some "Wikignome", and some write code, we can accommodate experts who do not wish to write articles or endlessly argue content, but do wish to help in a refereeing or advisory capacity.
In this case maybe:
- Users with specific topic expertize encouraged to join the relevant project-wide ("global", "meta-") WikiProject/s.
- Part of global Wikiproject structure is to identify any mainstream and recognizable expert members (for all or some topics in the Wikiproject).
- While these members are not given preferred editorial standing, they do have a referee's inquiry and review page on the WikiProject (and all Global WikiProjects should aim to have such a page), where specialist questions, sourcing, current knowledge, and assessment of edits to high quality articles, can be asked by anyone, if a previous general inquiry has not helped.
- These do not function like an Arbcom (they aren't mandatory and don't exclude other opinions from being informative). But they do give a chance for users with highly recognized skills to formally consider and state what they think is highest quality, with anyone else commenting or participating in a separate section below (for clarity).
- The conclusions reached on that page are advisory only, but represent the thoughts of recognized "very knowledgable editors" on the topic.
Example how such a page might look:
=== Description of question/issue === ; Statement of issue (brief neutral summary) and previous resolution attempts if applicable ; Statements by any other involved users ; Views and discussion by WikiProject's referee panelists ; Views and discussion by other editors ; Parties feedback and any other user final comments
And if this catches on, a specific kind of peer review too:
- Maintaining a table of "latest edits checked to..." and "referee panelist's comments..." for all GA/FA in the WikiProject, and
- Watching these articles, and regularly checking their edits since the last "benchmark point" (the last point they were formally agreed to be of that high quality) -- ie, aiming to check the latest edits on each article regularly, so that it is noticed sooner if an article that's reached a high standard of quality is eroding since last review.
Language Article Rating Awarded Last formal
en Topic1 GA 2008-07 2009-08 2009-11-03 Example  Comments fr Topic2 FA 2009-04 2009-09 2009-11-03 Example  More comments en Topic3 GA 2006-12 2008-12 2009-04-17 Other  other comments
It would be great of course if they can REGULARLY do smth but we can also cover the situations of a SINGLE action (like answering a question on request or a peer-reviewing an article).
Both - one doesn't preclude the other. We will have expert and knowledgeable users who don't want to argue with warriors but are glad to peer review, check for issues, help other WikiProject members, field questions needing a high level of knowledge, etc.
May be we better wait for the others but as far as I am concerned this is one of the three issues (along with wiki-projects and baseline quality) where we are about coming to the stage of starting to compile recommendations.
Agree about not assuming, and waiting for others. I keep my current thoughts about proposals on my user page (regularly updated as we discuss things), if you want to take a look.
I will have a look, but first I need to reply or mark as read the remaining 10 threads on the quality task force and do smth about the weekly report. I just want to get a better overview of the discussions first.
Are we turning into Nupedia? Seriously, I think we need to look at other projects Larry Sanger and Danny Wool - two smart pople whatever else one might think of them - and ask what succeeded and what failed. Look, these guys were concerned about JUST THESE problems with Wikipedia, and set out in their own way to overcome JUST THESE problems. What can we learn from their successes .... and failures?
The defining question here is, which do you feel Wikipedia should be in the longer term:
- The "fairly okay I guess encyclopedia anyone can edit" (including many more who will inadvertently reduce quality on high quality items than will improve or maintain it).
- This sets a quality ceiling in practice, and makes it a constant struggle to keep the quality head above water. Eventually we will lose that, because capable users burn out faster than they are added.
- The "high quality world reference work anyone can edit" (but to maintain good quality users need to show certain competences before editing certain specific pages)
- This accepts that just like not everyone in the world is equally willing to write neutral encyclopedic content, many in the world who can edit, lack the skills or topic knowledge to work to a high standard. Singling out those who can, and letting them work on specific pages which are delicate, specialist, or are at a level of quality where going down is far easier than going up, will encourage a quality environment. It also strongly incentivizes and operationalizes creating a quality-oriented community for those who initially don't have that skill.
There are further choices and ways to bridge the gap, but ultimately you have to choose which of those you want to be.
- The first is a dead end anyway, in the long run.
- The second respects the principles of Wikipedia, by allowing "anyone" to edit the delicate or high quality pages, in the same way "anyone" can be an admin -- pure competence, attitude, meritocracy, open to all, and for all to seek at any time. Open to all, and valuing the goal of being an encyclopedia a bit more than it is at present.
I've made my choice. I will respect if you feel it's a harsh one, or a middle way is possible, or the issues can be mitigated. But ultimately I fear you bang up against that question in some way, and ultimately you have to choose the second -- or history will choose for you.
FT2 you may be right about these two choices but I really wish we coul com up with three or four ... I am not thrilled with either choice you present even if you may turn out to be right. Perhaps by discussing Nupedia and Everything2 and Danny Wool's project, we can come up with clearer ideas of what we want and do not want as mechanisms to promote quality.
This is what I really take issue with: "but to maintain good quality users need to show certain competences before editing certain specific pages." I do not think that there should be a barrier to entry to ediing an article. This to me is the essence of AGF. Someone with no recognizable credentials may nevertheless make a great edit.
I look at it from the other side. I'd rather give everyone the chance to edit any article but make it easier to block someone from working on an article once they have demonstrated sufficient ignorance of the topic to justify the block, than to change our policy of letting anyone edit.
The fact is right now many articles have a few people watching so that when an idiot makes a stupid edit it is corrected quickly.
Realistically, there are two big problems: there are some articles few people watch and seldom regularly so a stupid edit can be made without being reverted quickly. I' still do not want to deprive anyone of the right to edit - but maybe we can come up witah a way that any time an article of interest to a particular wikiproject is edited, a flag comes up at that project, so some member of the project can check it out?
The other problem is when the ignorant editor is persistent. This is a form of "disruptive editing" and perhaps we can come up with quicker mechanisms to block such people from editing such articles.
So, these are mechanisms I would prefer over your option #2
That philosophy has already broken down badly on various pages.
It's delicate or specialist pages we're discussing. That's important context to the above post:
- "The second respects the principles of Wikipedia, by allowing "anyone" to edit the delicate or high quality pages [emphasis added], in the same way "anyone" can be an admin -- pure competence, attitude, meritocracy, open to all, and for all to seek at any time..."
In the beginning, making people sysops was pretty casual because all they were expected to do was enforce community bans by blocking people when there was consensus, by blocking vandals or protecting pages that were targets of vandals. These are pretty basic powers and anyone who has been active for a few months or lets say a year understands how to use them. And it is easy to spot abuses of such powers and take them away.
When it comes to recognizing expertise, I think it is more difficult. We are talking about a wide range of knowledges and skills the value of which is much more context-dependent. There are Wikipedians who know I have real expertise in certain areas, either because of formal education or independent research (I think my committment to Wikipedia policy is equally important here). Even so I get into edit conflicts with people who genuinely believe my knowledge is no longer relevant or they know more. This can go to mediation or arbcom. My point is that even thought I believe them wrong, I acknowledge that there is no objective i.e. non-partisan way to handle this. My larger point is that we will often reach the limits of the community's ability to reach a consensus on the expertise of someone.
Look, I know that we do this informally all the time. I do notobject to that. I am just very anxious about trying to formalize it. I really feel safer letting community support work its way in most cases.
Maybe it would help if you explained in as much detail as possible - no need to name names - some of the cases you are thinking of. Obvously you are concerned by some real cases. I think you need to lay those cases out for us, if we are to figure out mechanisms that would have avoided or efficiently resolved the problems that are concerning you.
... even thought I believe them wrong, I acknowledge that there is no objective i.e. non-partisan way to handle this. -> of course there is: look into the relevant sources. Most Wikipedians seem amazingly lazy when it comes to visiting a library. Worrying, since we try to create an encyclopaedic source that reflects the content of these libraries.
I think it is very interesting to look into the 'results' and mechanics of other projects like Citizendium. Since we only have until mid January, I don't think it can be part of this task force to do the analysis.
"Most Wikipedians seem amazingly lazy when it comes to visiting a library." I agree with you. nd frankly, I think this is one of the major causes of a lcak of quality in articles so we need to confront it squarely. If we HAVE to create any hierarchies in Wikipedia, I would say the percentage of edits based on reliable sources or library research would be a good one! Slrubenstein 18:03, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
I think this leads us back to the "Featured Article" standard for measuring our best editors. A featured article will be:
well-researched: it is a thorough and representative survey of the relevant literature on the topic. Claims are verifiable against high-quality reliable sources and are supported with citations; this requires a "References" section that lists these sources, complemented by inline citations where appropriate;
"Must visit a library" is practically built into the requirement, if not the best possible web search.
It also helps that the featured article status is discussed by multiple Wikipedians. That means it really represents, by consensus, the best that Wikipedia has to offer. We might disagree about whether it's more valuable to clean up an article, create a new stub, or merge together a bunch of smaller articles. But a featured article is the closest thing we have to "objective" quality.
A trusted editor would start with at least 2 or 3 FAs... and maybe throw in some other requirements like "never been blocked", just so we can exclude jerks.
The idea behind a trusted editor is not to create some kind of untouchable class... it's to know that certain people "get" Wikipedia *and* have valuable expertise. It means that we can actually entrust more editors with tool that we'd only given to admins until now. And it makes it easier to spot someone who, by the widest community standards, has offered huge benefits to the project. Marking their status would be to the benefit of newbies AND veterans who are passing by a stranger.
I'm sorry to say that while i'm not indifferent to this discussion, i "really" feel unconcerned.
Whatever proposal you make out of this discussion won't make my editing life better or worse.
We can't rely too much "editing saviors".
P.S.: I'm not trying to be provocative but that what "gust" say and it took me +45 mins to formulate just 3 sentences.
In your opinion, does this thread represent a significant, substantial, energetic, and engaged discussion of the contributions of anonymous users?
No. It's a discussion of a type of user who chooses to edit non-anonymously (under their own names), often with expertise or otherwise some clear knowledge in their field, and 1/ how we can best help such users to edit without harassment, or fear of defamation and personal attacks, 2/ how we can best make use of such people in the project.
- (Explanation for others - see my talk page)
It strikes me that there would be immediate disadvantages to editors not being anonymous. An article would become the property of Professor X the world renowned expert on whatever it is. Professor Xs work on wikipedia would naturally become known to Professor Y, his professional rival who has always coveted his post as dean and thinks Xs published work is rubbish. Don't tell me this is just the world of soap operas. Ive been to university. Wikipedia can not create impartial articles by relying on a few experts. Surely part of the reason for creating wikipedia the way it was, was because hordes of top men were not queing up to work for free writing about their subject, so us ordinary mortals would have to do it if we wanted it done. The sort of expert I would be interested in seeing recognised, if anyone is, is the sort who is not a trained expert on a particular topic, but someone who has a good track record of contributing content to articles which is generally accepted and sticks. Sandpiper 01:34, 20 January 2010 (UTC)
Such situation can happen of course but I do not see how this can be avoided in principle. Nobody can prohibit me to use my real name, and anyone can put my name into Google and get an idea what my research field is, what my status and institution are, and whether he/she can rely on my opinion in my research area.
Not wishing to be insulting or anything, but I have no idea who you might be professionally. It might become obvious if I was working on an article and someone was using a name I recognised in that field, but I have seldom met anyone using their own name and arguing they are an established expert on whatever it is. My advice to anyone would be that they are likely to be better received if they do not claim to be a recognised expert but just a knowledgeable ordinary editor with a view on the subject. The point in question here is not whether editors might wish to identify themselves for whatever reason, but whether we should build up a stable of such editors, encouraging experts to identify themselves and put them in charge of something or other. I don't think we should. Experts on wiki ought to be more in the line of 'expert witnesses', not judges. Generally it is clear when one or another editor is knowledgeable about a subject and others will defer to their views if they regularly make good sense, but as a matter of academic rigour I automatically distrust anyone claiming pre-eminence.
I am a university professor at one of the top research universities in my field, fairly well cited. But I agree that we predominantly should use the experts as experts, and typically not let them make any administrative decisions, especially in the field they may have a conflict of interests.
- Themes and ideas from Archive 1:
- Wikipedia doesn't communicate or (strongly) enforce its expectations up front
- Difficult to handle; users can get away with it in a lot of ways (borderlining, tendentiousness, attacking admins, wearing others down, fillibustering, having friends to help, having a few aggressive users and a number of enablers/protectors, etc)
- Some capable users (especially those with technical or cultural knowhow) are bad collaborators or use their skills negatively as well
- Open knowledge means it's all "up for grabs" - so who gets to decide when someone is sticking up for principle or warring?
- POV warriors (and the balance of good vs problem editors) are a major threat to the community and project
- "Red tape" can be bent to poor uses
- Actionable behavior is easily handled; it is unactionable offenses (passive agrgressive, claims that a user was not attacking but was just stating a firm point, ongoing borderline behaviour that doesn't formally cross a line, "fellow travelling team" support etc) that are the problem
- Immense genuinely grey (or arguable-both-ways) areas on conduct
- Possible approaches:
- Tougher line on conduct and on admin enforcement; possible emphasis from civility (arguable) to respect
- Change the ethos from "edit until egregious" to "higher standard may be demanded by any admin"?
- Formal recognition of "trusted/senior users" would allow edit warred topics to be better addressed
Talk page discussion is the major mechanism for improvement of article quality. If discussion can be maintained as civil and on-topic, participation on Talk pages will be useful, will invite serious participants, and lead to good changes in article content.
The major problems with Talk page discussion pointed out above presently are exacerbated by Admin actions, which are often erroneously based upon supposed content issues (which Admins should not become involved in as Admins). Instead, Admin action should refer directly to conduct issues, and should be applied to all participants in a discussion regardless of the personal judgment by Admins of who is right.
Once started, deterioration of a Talk page is hard to reverse. Therefore, action to prevent abuse should be implemented immediately, not after trouble becomes obvious.
Abuse consists of violation of guidelines like WP:NPA and WP:Civil and is easily recognized without understanding content. Guidelines may require some further development to provide specific examples of violations to avoid "gray areas".
In particular, the widespread use of WP:POV and WP:OR and WP:Soap (which properly require judgment of content) as pejoratives can be avoided by requiring specific description of the origin of these reactions, and disallowing their use on Talk pages as "swear words". That is, Admins can enforce conduct (proper use of content guidelines) without involving themselves in content as such.
FT2, I think you are missing the influence of politics on Wikis. A lot of people "collaborate" together in a manner to push each others agendas. They back it up through intimidation, harassment, and abuse of status or power. True collaboration would mean that all sides come to an agreement and work as one. Instead, the different discussions become partisan feuds in which one side tries to dominate another. The people who truly care about the projects tend to be pushed out because they did not think about making political deals to get their way. Power and virtue are rarely connected. That would have to be changed.
What could happen is that terms for all positions of power are limited to 6 months, including any overseer groups (like an ArbCom). That would force re-evaluations of people and allow a more rigorous control over people who tend to just get stuck into a position and use it to help get their way. To make it more fair, to regain your status would only then require a lower margin. Ottava Rima 19:22, 21 January 2010 (UTC)
FWIW: the Dutch Wikipedia has a system that requires adminship to be renewed after a year. In practice this does not make much of a difference, as there is an overwhelming tendency not to rock the boat and blindly vote to support the admins, who after all are doing the dirty work. It is nice as an idea, and it does work to an extent, but the effect is very limited. It may be worth introducing, as an extra way of checks and balances, but don't expect much practical difference. - Brya 06:07, 22 January 2010 (UTC)
My observation of the practices on ru.wp shows that this does not make sense. I have just voluntarily decided to get re-elected after two years of adminship. I got 97% of votes and absolutely no useful feedback (I hoped for). The users who I knew would vote against me just did not show up, presumably thinking it does not make sense. Limiting the admin term by half a year means we would run simultaneously dozens of elections at all times, which are very much time-consuming (especially as far as the questions are concerned). And the admin status for gross violations gets efficiently removed by the arbitration committee.
Btw I believe we did not include any of these recommendations in the final recommendations. I personally think they are more appropriate for the Community Health task force.
Well, people may think not to rock the boat until it is necessary. It is one thing to have an option and not use it, and it is another to not have the option at all.
Most of my work is at the community health task force... I definitely think there needs to be an easier way to seek the recall of an admin. I'm not sure what it would look like, and I can see how a simple "re-election" is not appropriate. I'm interested in other ideas though, if only for the CH task force.
Well if a annual/semiannual re-election isn't a viable option, there should be a place where people seeking to complain can go to try and get a re-election. Say x admins could request a re-election, or x editors in good standing...
Admins currently represent bureaucrats who are elected for life...most of us can surmise what happens when you appoint a bureaucrat for life...
A lot of peoples' experiences suggest that "requesting a revote" or "requesting demotion" isn't really an effective way to deal with admins. I saw one demotion, but I agree it's a pretty rare incident.
I think that the problem might be that there's no halfway measure to deal with admins who aren't *that* bad. If you request review or demotion, very few admins are so bad to deserve that (at least, until they've been consistently bad for 6 months). But there are incidents where they probably deserve some kind of slap on the wrist. Maybe a warning, or a strongly worded statement that they should stay away from doing X or Y for a few weeks.
If we could deal with the borderline cases better, we wouldn't have to wait until they really screw things up to demote them.
User:MZMcBride has done some really fascinating work on a script to find at risk BLPs... there's a nice update at w:User talk:MZMcBride#climax_progress_update. I strongly recommend a read through... curious about your reactions?
I'm not sure we have something that can identify every single bad BLP. There's a big dispute going on right now about what to do with unsourced BLPs, and whether all 50,000 of them are fundamentally bad, or whether many of them could be quickly improved.
But he's onto something that would flag some of the worst BLPs. Keeping a list of these would make it easier to monitor and control this kind of harmful material.
The number of active administrators per editor has been very sharply declining, and I can see no more serious threat to Wikipedia content quality. The problem of administrators spread too thin is reflected in poorer quality administrator decision making, longer administrator task queues, less reliance on deescalation and more reliance on clumsy vindictive measures.
I've recommended incentives, but haven't heard any opinions either way from other people on that subject, which is surprising and disappointing.
What is the best way to counter active admin flight?
I'm not sure what this shows, or its significance. Admin decline is also noted elsewhere (RFA I think).
Would not object to a review of RFA's from (say) Feb + October for the years 2009, 2007, 2005 (6 months total) to see what's going on - attendance, responses, and evidence if the issue is higher standards, more demanding requirements (perhaps unreasonable at times), conflicting demands meaning people get "hit" by one view or the other enough to falter, cliques, or whatever.
If the ratio is seen as a problem, does this mean we need to encourage more people to take up adminship, encourage more people to take up the kinds of jobs admins do (which they often don't need to be an admin for), or use the interface to guide people so they don't as often do the kinds of things admins patrol for (eg poor articles).
Worth a look. But a minor recommendation/observation.
What do you mean by "significance"? You have used that term on multiple occasions, and I want to make sure we are talking about the same thing.
Variously, what it really means, what it says, what it's showing... and also in some contexts, its salience, "what matters and why it matters", and so on.
In this case I'm not sure what it really shows. The raw data's superficially obvious but what would this information really mean if examined carefully, and how "key" a fact is it?
That sort of thing.
It shows a very sharp, consistent, and accelerating decline in the number of active administrators which began two years ago; that much is obvious. By any statistical measure of significance, it is troubling.
I do not believe that all admins will be gone in five years, but unless I see some sign that anyone is willing to take this problem seriously, I will not have any reason to doubt what I have experienced first-hand will continue: that administative stress, decision making, queue length, aggression, and talent will all become substantially worse; even in the near term, because of the second derivative of the statistic.
Is there any support for taking closer and more careful measurements of this phenomenon?
We have the same problem on my home project: the number of administrators is roughly stable (about 70) for more than 2 years. Frankly speaking, I do not think we can suggest anything there: the communities will resist any changes until they are ripe for these changes to happen. And when they are right they will design smth themselves, not just accept what we suggest.
Do you think that means we should refrain from making any suggestions on the topic? Will the communities know about the problem before it is too late? It may be useful to 'prime the pump' by trying to think of some solutions for what appear to be very serious problems.
I would say the same thing about "Article Wizard" interfaces: Easier said than done. If such an idea is to be taken seriously by implementers, we need to know exactly what kind of "Wizards" are being proposed, and we need to measure whether they will help or hinder before they are deployed on a wide-spread basis.
(Regarding Wizards and the like, a range of concrete ideas have been proposed and gained significant support early on. It's mainly (but not all) in Archive #1.)
This graph is a waste of time for our task force. It shows the number of admins is declining. It's unclear what this has to do with quality. Instead, a graph showing the number of admin actions vs. the amount of needed admin actions would show us something. Sadly, we haven't got such a graph.
This is why I treated users, edits and edit rates separately in my essay. Using the wrong thing to show something is an unwanted form of data manipulation.
The number of admins is declining while the number of editors continues to climb. Is there any reason that doesn't have negative implications for the amount of admin actions versus the amount needed?
There is no reason to assume it does. You are comparing apples with pears.
It seems to me you are claiming that the number of necessary admin actions does not vary in proportion to the number of editors. There is a strong argument from induction that it does. Do you have any evidence that the correlation is zero or negative?
well i dont know if im supposed to post here or not. A link appeared at the top of a wiki page inviting comments on the task forces recommendations. After an hour or so I still dont understand how it is organised, how the non-normal indenting system works, where i should post or what exactly I am being invited to comment on. I find the whole thing confusing, which can't be good if you are trying to get people involved. So anyone reading please regard this as a general observation of confusion as to how I am being invited to contribute and maybe place this general observation somewhere else where it properly belongs.
As to what I am trying to respond to, why there is a decline in the numbers of administrators, duh, are you serious? Im not an admin but I am the sort of person who might have made a good one. But every year the appeal of being one becomes less and less. Instead of a job where you get to be helpfull and maybe use the added perks to do the odd admin tidy up where you come across a problem, it becomes more a policemans job all the time. The original definition was a janitor who tidies up. Now many admins I come across see it as their job to tell people off for their temerity in trying to edit an article. There are enough rules on wikipedia now to keep lawyers in business for years and they just keep growing. You can spend your whole life trying to keep up with those rules. I have seen comments by quality assessors, dedicated ones, moaning that they no sooner assessed an article than the standards have changed and they have to do it all over again. Do I want a job which involves spending most of my time checking how the rules have changed since last week and then quoting rules I didnt write and dont agree with at people who were just trying to contribute? This place was supposed to work by consensus, not rules imposed from the top.
There seems to be a great emphasis on admins doing administration. Maybe that is what you mean by 'active admins'? If the deal is signing up to spend all my time processing articles to delete, or some other list, then obviously Im not iterested. Some people may like that kind of thing full time. I might do it sometimes but being here is for fun not community service. The image of an admin comes across as someone obsessed with admin, not writing articles. This perception of what an admin does is growing as the beaurocracy here grows.
I sometimes come across someone who has been an editor for only 3 months and is madly clocking up edits on some admin task, and I just think, ah fast track to admin, someone wants the position. I wonder what they will do with it when they get it? Do I want someone like that bossing others about here? no. Do I want to spend my time arguing with them? no. Do i think all the admins already in existence are on a power trip? yes. Do I think they would blackball me as a rebel if I so much as expressed interest in the position? yes. Sandpiper 00:55, 20 January 2010 (UTC)
Well, I do not like it either, but this is how our real life is organized. I have no idea about the details of the laws, and I would need a layer to go to the court for smth, but I know how to behave in all situations to make sure I do not break the laws.
While looking back through all of the great discussions and work from this task force, there appear to be some interesting (and reinforcing!) points of intersection with some of the work that has been going on with the Community Health Task Force. It seems like it would be powerful to communicate the places where there is interconnectedness and complementary thinking going on, and John (who has been working with the CH TF) and I took a stab at that here.
Does this accurately reflect the discussions this Task Force has had around some of these topics, as well as some of the relevant recommendations? How could the language/content be refined to make this stronger?
I think all of these things came up at one point or another. The question is if it actually sums up the good ideas.
I know that at the community health task force, the idea of having some kind of reader rating system was seen as a net negative for community health, just because it was seen as a potential way to turn articles into a battleground, or just to game the system. The baseline is a decent idea, but doesn't really have much to do with community health.
We definitely support the idea of having senior editors. But it depends on what that reputation system is. And of course, we think a better interface is a good idea too.
Thanks for the thoughts! The idea for this was to show the intersections more than get into the details, and I know that a lot of thinking about areas like the reputation system and what that should (or should not) really look like has been captured in this task force's discussions and emerging recommendations (I will add a link to make that clear). The thought behind adding the baseline is to make it clear that would be necessary in many ways before you could do any of the assessing, prioritizing, etc. Is that the way this task force has been talking about it, or am I headed in the wrong direction?
And thanks for the clarification about reading ratings!
Not sure I'm seeing the connection between baseline articles and community health. (Although I don't think it's a bad idea.) Some articles could not be assessed further until they meet the baseline? I suppose it might reduce some disputes where people are pushing really obvious POVs or what not.
One thing that might be missing: dispute resolution. I think the quality task force ended up on that topic, and I chimed in from community health that we thought this was important. I'm not sure if the quality task force backed off in the end, but they definitely thought quality was being undermined by disputes with "POV-warriors" and other stubborn people. And it was even more clear that this was a major community health problem.
If I may, I don't agree with the CH TF about this particular topic. Assuming rating being unconstructive is a way of assuming bad faith in editors. Of course, Murphy says if something is in place that can be misused, it will be misused. Yet I think we shouldn't take that negative approach. After all, Wikipedia can be misused as a whole, in many ways, because it is editable. Should we stop Wikipedia from being editable then?
It's kind of incompatible with how Wikipedia works. Wikipedia works by consensus. Wikipedia is not a democracy. Are we really going to have a reader reputation system that amounts to voting? The reason we avoid votes like that is because people could canvass supporters to enforce a biased view of quality. Or a few "first-movers" could give a high rating to a POV or OR-essay, giving them a basis to block efforts to remove the OR or POV. (e.g.: "this article is an 8 out of 10 and you're ruining it!")
I'm pretty sure that the quality task force tried to come up with a more objective baseline/quality system for these exact reasons. But if they didn't, they certainly should have.
They did. If you read the discussion carefully (I know it's a long piece), we didn't want rating of users by vote, only a rating of articles by vote. The rating of users we discussed (I think we didn't propose such a thing), was a secondary rating, deduced from how their edits are appreciated in the article votes.
One of our recommendations is a "senior editor" status, which will indeed need a vote and could indeed damage community health. But I think that's not the thing you referred to above.
Yeah, although there were mixed feelings at CH, we felt it was bad for consensus-building to introduce new voting procedures, even at articles. Do you have a link to the discussion? I'm interested to read it anyway.
There does seem to be an important distinction between rating users and rating articles, and we were definitely referring to articles in this case. I made a language change and am wondering if it moves us closer
I also added a priority around dispute resolution, to test it out and see what people think. I'm not as up-to-date on the discussion/recommendations around that, so could use help fleshing it out . . .
@Randomran: I believe the thread about article rating was (it's dead now) Thread:Talk:Task_force/Wikipedia_Quality/Defining_quality. It's summarized here.
You know, there's even some controversy among the quality task force about what would make for a good quality rating system. (e.g.: some people support automated tools rather than a click-to-rate system...) But I realized an important area of consensus.
The CH task force discussed tools that would make it easier to ask for help, which I incorporated into this recommendation. So I think one area that would represent a benefit to community health AND quality is making it easier to signal an issue with an article. This is different from voting. It asks someone to click a button to drop in a quick constructive criticism, which is more useful and harder to game.
TylerT, does that make sense?
As to ratings of articles I am in two minds (ratings for users are out). I feel it has potential, provided a more or less objective method is adopted. Ratings should be by the reader, not by users. However, it is indeed gameable, and can have negative impact on article quality. There is also the issue of what rating belong with what version of the article (this issue also is of some importance with tags becoming a fixed feature of articles, for years and years, once they were pasted on some version of the article).
So, I don't see this as an immediately promising way forward, although I would not rule it out, provided a suitable form could be found. - Brya 04:18, 15 January 2010 (UTC)
Randomran - it does make sense - thanks for the addition! And reading your recommendation only reinforced for me how/where the Community Health and Quality task forces intersect.
Sounds good! I fleshed out the item on dispute resolution, and made a less controversial version of the reader rating system (one that avoids voting, but still leverages reader feedback and encourages participation).
I started to compile the task force recommendations. I have written the piece on the projects. The two other pieces (baseline quality and senior editors) would follow. Critique/help are welcome. Our deadline is Monday.
Well, I have finished writing: Task force/Recommendations/Wikipedia Quality. I do not really like very much what I have written. Moreover, I never got any feedback except for the message left by Brya on the recommendation talk page, and this message basically concerns not so much the recommendations, but our discussion itself.
Tomorrow is the deadline, and I can still do smth provided I get some feedback (remember I am on European time, UTC+1).
If there is somebody else around, we can try compiling next-level recommendations, kind of roadmaps on the points we outlined in the discussion, but I do not see how these could be finished before tomorrow.
Hey Yaroslav, you've done a great job under the circumstances. I know it's a lot of work, and it's tough to take the loose discussion and tighten it up into a solid list of recommendations. The good news is we'll still have time to refine the recommendations as we go along, so if you do find time tomorrow, I left a comment at the link you provided.
Thanks. I am still around, and also I will prepare a list of suggestions for further discussion (I assume the life does not stop with the delivery of recommendations).
Hi, I'm sorry I didn't help constructively in creating the final recommendations until now, but after being absent for more than a week I thought it would be unwise to walk in everyone's footsteps. I think Yaroslavs proposal is a very good first try. I agree that these are three important possible recommendations (meta-wikiprojects, senior editors, brand) we came across so far.
I am not totally sure these three were all we had cause in my period of absence, I lost the overview and due to my inexperience with the FT system I'm unable to get it back quickly.
Now I think about it, the idea of the wizzards is missing. Perhaps something can be added to the third point on this. We should recommend emphasising and defining our brand more strongly, and educating and guiding our users better to have them work in line with the brand (which includes core principles like encyclopaedicity, verifiablity and balance). To achieve the latter, more emphasis on guidelines, help pages and wizzards is needed.
They could all use some expansion. But here are some links to past discussions about wizards and interfaces:
- Thread:Talk:Task force/Wikipedia Quality/Wizards, guidance and user interface (narrow focus)
- Thread:Talk:Task force/Wikipedia Quality/Patrolling and filling in gaps (narrow focus)
- Thread:Talk:Task force/Wikipedia Quality/interfaces and tools for quality improvement
(Some had already been summed up by FT2).
I know. I participated in these discussions or at least read them before I became ill. I've just made a couple of changes to the draft recommendations, especially to the third point. I included Brya's additions in there and tried to explain the aims better.
Scientific pre-prints are often published at www.arxiv.org. Could Wikimedia and arxiv.org colaborate in some way, maybe by providing a section where trusted editors can publish their pre-print. Such colaboration could also increase the likeliness that these editors start editing regular Wikimedia content to.
Would you please explain? I am a regular contributor of arxiv.org (as a matter of fact, I upload there everything which I eventually send to academic journals). Everybody can upload thinks over there,even though for the first time one nees an endorsement (I think, I myself uploaded the first article there in 1996 when no endorsement was needed). Non of these articles is suitable for Wikipedia because they are in a different format and are not encyclopedic articles, some of them do not meet notability criterion. Or do you mean smth else?
My idea is that if more academics worked closer to a Wikipedia interface, and benefited from it themself, they would be more likely to contribute to the regular material as well. I know this task force is about Wikipedia, but maybe yet another project, wikiscience or something like that where scientists could upload their preprints and colaborate on articles could be useful. The articles could be open to edit by just a few or a single editor, those that colaborate on an article. The article could be unaccesible until finished and when finished it can be published both as pdf and as an ordinary wikipedia-like article. The tex and wikipedia syntax ain't very different, so it should be possible to allow creation of the pdf and wiki-article from the same source.
Apart from making the scientists work closer to a wiki interface I think it also would make the scientific material more accesible to a wider audience.
The first hurdle I see is that I may not tranfer any of my preprints in PD since eventually they will be published in scientific journals, and I will have to sign the copyright transfer.
Another thing I do not understand is why should the scientists move from arxiv.org to wikiscience, if they are fine already at arxiv.org (which is actually premoderated so that junk like personal attacks does not get published).
Yes I see that there might be some problams and this is just an idea I got and havn't given it very much of a thought before writting it down. But my motivation for the proposal is the following:
- Both Wikimedia and scinece in general has as goal to provide knowledge.
- Both Wikimedia and arxiv.org enables knowledge to be be provided free of charge.
- The mediawiki and tex scripting ain't very different.
I don't think it is possible to move every scientist from arxiv.org to a wikimedia project, and that was not what I intended. But I thought their might be a possibility of collaboration or some kind of merge. Pdf documents can automatically be generated from wikimedia documents. In the same way a wiki page could automatically be generated from a pre-print and in that way be accesible in a format comfortable to a wider audience. When reffering to a scientific work on Wikipedia, this could be done by reffering to the wikidocument which I think is more likely to satisfy a general audience.
At the same time the wiki project could provide scientists with the opportunity to collaborate on a document online, much like for ordinary wiki articles. But editing is restricted to those that collaborate on the article, and the article could also be unaccesible by others until it is published. When published a wikidocument and arxiv article could be automatically produced at the same time.
I don't know how to deal with copyright transfer as I havn't published anything myself, but I can't see the difference between publishing on a wiki project and arxiv as long as the editing is restricted to the actuall authors at the wiki project. Maybe this restriction of editing doesn't follow the wikimedia philosophy very well, but why could a certain project not have such a policy if it is for the greater good of knowledge spreading?
One benefit that I see is that with projects such as wikiversity, wikipdeia and "wikiscience" everyone from preschool up to the research frontier, and also society in general, can have a unified structure for communication, allowing for greater understanding. One problem I, as a university student of physics, has realized is that many of my classmates that wasn't that used to computers had a hard time adapting to writting tex-reports, and had to put much effort into learning this, taking time from the actuall subject studied. If the communication is performed in the same sense at all levels to an as great extent as possible, such waste of effort could be minimized.
There was a discussion about WikiJournal a while back, on WikiEN-L. I'll dig it up. I definitely think it's worth it, if there isn't a practical matter related to publication which would deter editors and academics from such a scheme. However, if starting such a project is worth considering, do we think it might stand as a recommendation? I think probably not. Worth noting and adding to the incubator and proposals perhaps, but not likely to be viable here?
I believe this idea of Dafer45 is in essence a good one. If more scholars would contribute to Wikipedia... However, we shouldn't forget that many (if not most) primary scientific publications don't only provide new knowledge, they often have a strong POV (not always in line with the scholarly consensus) on how to interprete this knowledge too.
This is why I warned against the practice of using primary scientific sources in an earlier thread. Scientific publications (or rather, parts of scientific publications) that are secondary in nature are perfect sources for Wikipedia though.
Somehow I feel that even though flagged revisions appear in our discussions here and there we never made any statement about them. It looks like I am the only member of this Task force who comes from a project with flagged revisions implemented, and I have also heard that now there are some articulated motions on en.wp to implement flagged revisions as soon as possible. As far as I am concerned I would recommend all moderate and big projects (say with more than 5K articles, where it becomes increasingly difficult to follow the new edits page, to implement flagged revisions possibly tied to our baseline quality definition. Any opinions on this issue?
Another thing that I wonder is if a simple way to reffer to any revission could be implemented. Say that I write something on a subject and finds a Wikipedia article that provides exelent background material that I don't want to repeat in my actuall text but would love to reffer to. If I am able to reffer to a certain revission of the article I could myself guarantee the content of it if I proof reads it and finds that it is accurate. The resposibility for the correctness of the Wikipedia article is then put on me as the one who reffers to the article, but it also allows me to be certain that it is that particular version that I reffer to that others will be reffered to. This could be a complement to flaged revisions and could provide a way for any article to be used as reference even if it is impossible to make flaged revisions of every article.
Say that I could reffer to the article Asser on english Wikipedia, the version as it was after the edit at 15th of December at 10:44, as http://en.wikipedia.org/Asser/2009-12-15-10-44.
Times that I have found that this later method would have been especially useful are when I have gone through a mathematical derivation of some physical results and understood the derivation to the point that I myself can guarantee the correctness of it but just want to include the result in my own text. For either I have to redo the derivation in my own text, or try to find the same result derived in some other source that is refferable.
I am not sure I understand the question. You can always refer to a diff, and this has nothing to do with the flagged revisions: you can start referring to diffs now.