Proposal talk:Re-hire Larry Sanger

From Strategic Planning

The rift is good

Wikipedia and Citizendium have two very different models. Both models have a valid reason to exist, and suit different people for different purposes. Re-hiring Sanger would only deprive Citizendium of its leader/spokesperson. -Kotra 21:38, 13 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

I would hope that the Foundation could re-hire Sanger in order to pay him so that Citizendium, which I would expect that he would still lead, is certain to not fail, among other things. 22:09, 13 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
In that case, if Citizendium and Wikipedia still went along as normal, what would be the point? What rift would be healed? If it's just the personal disagreements between Wales and Sanger, re-hiring Sanger isn't necessary to solve that. It's between the two of them, really not our business. -Kotra 22:37, 13 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
I added the anti-monoculture argument to the proposal. 16:55, 14 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
That's good, but I guess I'm still not understanding what rift needs addressing. You've made it clear it isn't the Wikipedia/Citizendium rift, so I can only assume it's the personal disagreements between Sanger/Wales. Which, I'd hazard, is in their hands, not Wikimedia's. -kotra 23:42, 16 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
I wonder why you think an argument against a monoculture makes it clear that the rift isn't between Wikipedia and Citizendium. The projects are far more interesting than the people. 08:15, 23 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
Lack of a salary for Sanger isn't what is making (IMO had made) Citizendium a failure. I think the main problem is that it is competing with Wikipedia and the barrier to entry is just too large for new projects. I would love to see some competition, but a new project needs to be a massive amount better than Wikipedia in some way, and Citizendium wasn't. I think the main advantage it had over Wikipedia was that it wasn't Wikipedia so people that had become disillusioned with Wikipedia went there. --Tango 00:47, 14 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
" be a massive amount better than Wikipedia..." just because Wikipedia has many times more articles that Citizendium? That is very specious reasoning. Just because more people go to one night club than another does not mean that the one with more patrons is better. Wikipedia just has no cover charge and Citizendium has has a very high one. That is all.GMJ 23:55, 15 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
It's not just the number of articles, it is the brand recognition. Everyone knows Wikipedia and lots of people use it as their first source for information. The number of articles is a big part of that, but really it's because we were the first free encyclopaedia of decent size and quality. In order to get a large number of good articles you need lots of contributors, you only get those if you have lots of readers and you only get readers if you have a large number of good articles. Wikipedia avoided that by being the first so we didn't have to all that good to get readers, we just had to be better than nothing, but now new projects will need something really special to break out of that Catch-22. Citizendium didn't and it failed (yes, I'm using the past tense and have done for a while, the project is several years old and still has linear growth, it is as good as dead). --Tango 02:02, 17 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
Guess what other project has entered a period of linear growth? Does that mean we are similarly as good as dead? 11:11, 21 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
There is a big difference between growth slowing down once most of the important articles have been written and never having significant growth in the first place. --Tango 11:33, 21 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
I'm not at all sure of that, especially in the long run, given the different editorial models. 08:15, 23 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
Did you know that within a few weeks wikia will be larger than en:WP? Well, every Fanpedia would be larger on the long run than wikipedia. --Goldzahn 03:16, 21 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
Why would you compare the whole of Wikia to the English Wikipedia? Either compare the largest wiki on Wikia to the English Wikipedia or compare the whole of Wikia to the whole of the Wikimedia projects. To do otherwise if just making up random statistics that sound like they support your argument. --Tango 11:33, 21 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

What would Sanger have to offer us? He did a lot for the project in the past but only because he was in the right place at the right time, he wasn't specially chosen because he had useful skills or knowledge. --Tango 00:47, 14 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

I would somewhat disagree with that; he gave Wikipedia its first policies, its name, and even the idea of using the wiki model, among other things. To do all this he must have had (and, I would assume, still has) useful skills and knowledge. However, a large number of editors nowadays have these skills too, so bringing him in, while helpful on a volunteer basis (we can always use more thoughtful editors), probably isn't worth paying an actual salary. He built Wikipedia thoughtfully and skilfully in the early stages and set it on a good course, but there's no crucial need to re-hire him anymore. This proposal seems to be about a gesture of goodwill and a tidying-up of loose ends in Wikipedia's history, both good things, but I don't see much practical benefit. -kotra 16:49, 14 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
Sure, he did a good job, but I think plenty of people could have done just as good a job. I agree with you, he would be a useful volunteer if he were willing to work with us, but there he has nothing to contribute as an employee. --Tango 18:51, 14 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
That final assertion, without evidence, is dangerously close to what most people would, I believe, consider a personal attack. There is ample evidence to the contrary, as above. What evidence supports the assertion that Sanger has nothing to contribute as an employee? 23:25, 15 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
I wouldn't consider Tango's statement close to a personal attack. Sanger is smart, thoughtful, and dedicated, but so are thousands of volunteer editors on Wikimedia projects. It's not enough to be smart, thoughtful, and dedicated to be employed by Wikimedia. I think what Tango is saying is we do not currently have a gap in our staff that he has the necessary skills to fill. I would wager that most of us here (including me) don't have those skills, either. -kotra 23:32, 16 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
The WMF only hires staff to do things that can't be done by volunteers and it hires the best people it can get to do those things. What is Larry Sanger one of the best at that can't be done by volunteers? His formal training is in philosophy, which I can't see being useful to the WMF (the kind of decisions a philosopher might be useful for, if any, are made by the board and the community, not WMF staff) and his work experience is mostly related to online encyclopaedias - we happen to have quite a few experts on that subject in the community! --Tango 02:02, 17 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
Tango's post @ 00:47, 14 August 2009 (UTC) raises a critical point which this proposal's author doesn't appear to answer: what does Sanger have to offer us -- the whole of WMF, not just Wikipedia -- that no volunteer or staff member currently provides? This is a solution looking for a problem. Unless he meets an identifiable need, any salary we could offer him would be better spent hiring a current volunteer to contribute her/his expertise full time. -- Llywrch 16:57, 18 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
Again, is there any actual evidence that someone who has by definition been thinking about and working on using wikis for writing encyclopedias for longer than only a few people would be a worse potential hire than an unspecified volunteer? If there were any such evidence, I suggest that it would have been added to this page by now. 23:25, 18 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
We don't want to hire an unspecified volunteer either, though, so it doesn't really matter. (I'm not sure why Llywrch used that comparison.) --Tango 01:34, 19 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

I think the rift is good also. Wikipedia has already seen Sanger. The "expert review" process he outlines on his current encyclopedia provides for quite different encyclopedia. It is more inflexible, harder to change, difficult to correct and must ultimately end in a fixed encyclopedia such as Britannica. If we have Britannica, why do we need Larry Sanger? Wikipedia often lacks expertise but such expertise can relatively easily be added. It's easy to work on and so there are more working on it. The brain pool is bigger, which means more of everything intellectual. Moreover, the Sanger expert review is certainly subject to doubt. An expert - that is a scholar in the field paid by Britannica or someone like it to write a top article. Even at that they are not always top. I got no idea what a Sanger "expert" is. I used to read a few Sanger articles when I first got on Wikipedia (they were still there then). I don't mean to be mean but if that was expertise I will take the inexpert any day. With Wikipedia a good many articles are lucky - some real expert does take an interest. The Sanger system has a lot of rules and an article takes a lot of administrative overhead to do. Real experts just don't have time to bother with it as they have sites or books and articles of their own to do. No, I think we've seen Sanger and it should stay that way. No man can serve two masters and he has his own view to advocate. Why should it be at Wikipedia expense? This is a non-profit organization now. If Sanger's out of work I sympathize but Wikipedia should make the best financial decisions for the service. I read a lot about how great Sanger is everywhere but I almost never see Wales mentioned. Isn't that the way it should be for this type of organization? As it says above, let's consider carefully what Sanger can do for the non-profit service to be worth the expense.Botteville 00:48, 21 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

"I read a lot about how great Sanger is everywhere but I almost never see Wales mentioned." -- where? Wales has more than 4x the Google hits. 06:15, 14 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Noble gesture

Offering him a job does not guarantee that he would take it, which is doubtful. Unless Wikipedia and Citizendium reached a point of convergence, and/or and as long as Wales continues to figure prominently in Wikipedia, the chances of Sanger playing any role in Wikipedia is highly unlikely.GMJ 23:59, 15 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

I think it is best Citizendium maintains its independence, in the somewhat unlikely case that Wikipedia fails. It seems to me, observing Citizendium from outside, that they're trying to do the same thing with the same methods and a quite different terminology. I think it is the editors that dictate the development, not its organisation, nor it's leaders, who are merely the symbols and front figures of the editors. Rursus 12:11, 18 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]
I agree except to the extent that the stated methods in place are very different. I would hope that if Sanger were re-hired, that both he and the Foundation would insist that Citizendium remain under its current control regime. 23:26, 18 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]


Some proposals will have massive impact on end-users, including non-editors. Some will have minimal impact. What will be the impact of this proposal on our end-users? -- Philippe 00:15, 3 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Pretty minor. 06:15, 14 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Unclear purpose

I was one of the few editors around when Larry was working on Wikipedia, and I will never diminish the enormous contribution he made back in the beginning. However Wikipedia 2009 is completely different to Wikipedia 2001. I really can't see what role Larry would play in the current version, other than (at best) that of a "respected senior editor", and we have plenty of those anyway. Larry is free to return to WP regardless, and many of the editors at Citizendium still edit on WP regardless. There is no clear benefit to this idea that I can see.

Tales of the "rift" between Jimbo and Larry are greatly exaggerated by the way. There is a well known dispute over the "sole founder" issue, but that is only to do with that solitary point, and at the time Larry left the departure was amicable. Manning 07:28, 23 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]

I can only concur with these sentiments. Larry's role at the beginning was invaluable and he helped to an enormous extent steering the ship through an extremely stormy period, when anarchy was rife and edit wars and brouhaha of all shapes and sorts had little or no process, policy, methodology to hand to bring them to peaceful or satisfactory resolution. That said, a number of things occur to me. Firstly, I think Larry has conceptually outgrown the Wikipedia concept; this cuts two ways and I think Wikipedia has also outgrown Larry. Though Citizendium has not become the mainstream project which it deserves to be, the barriers to its growth are unfortunately self-evident. This is nothing to do with Larry's lack of effort or ability. I seriously considered joining the Citizendium project and did so for a while but I soon felt it really was just too much hard work - and while I am a fairly hardcore programmer with a background in dissecting things in minute detail, I really couldn't get to grips or engage with it. Some things in life work for you, some things don't, in much the same way I am much more ambivalent about my Wikipedia contributions nowadays. I studiedly don't contribute to things I care much about these days because I know that sooner or later the finicky descent back to primeval slime is only 100 or so edits away; this was not the case in the year 1, when there were no articles on Norse Mythology, Jorge Luis Borges, Java programming, when the only article on London ran to barely a couple of paragraphs and had 3 revisions in over a month. Larry wouldn't recognise the place now: the long-established London article has already received more edits today (it's early morning here) than it did in the first month of its inception, and I doubt that there's a great deal he could bring to the party in the face of the extent and scope of bureaucratic process now required to get anything done. Symbolically, though, while it would be good news if Larry could be brought back into the Wiki fold even in some limited capacity I somehow doubt though that he would come. Sjc 07:54, 27 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]

One person

I dunno he might be one smart cookie, but people should be replacable. Unless he has got a magic ring or super-powers I would move on and find new talent. --Alchemist Jack 12:23, 28 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]