Summary:Talk:Task force/Wikipedia Quality/Barriers to Quality at Wikipedia (and potentially other Wiki projects)

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Starting point
Warning: Long thread ahead!

Bhneihouse posted a description of her framework, which she titled "Barriers to Quality" (details).


  1. Narrow demographics of communities probably leads to an imbalance in project coverage (both information demand and overall quality content)
  2. Quality users become disappointed and leave
    Rude behaviour of other users
    Technical, "political" and informational elitism may have a discouraging effect on less active or technically adept users, partly due to models of policy- and maintenance-driven approaches.
    Status is defined by quantity, not quality of contributions.
    Quantity and rapidity of posting dominates discussions, rather than the quality of points made
  3. Software toolset is limited, user-unfriendly and discouraging
  4. Quality of content erodes in a manner related to community size ("content erosion")

Positives related to Wikipedia culture:

  1. Everyone welcome
  2. Anyone can start anywhere
  3. No prior expertise needed, just an (encouraged) ability to put together good evidence
  4. Personal opinions trumped by facts and evidence
  5. Hard work or minimal participation valued
  6. No "sacred cows" in content areas
  7. Everyone online can benefit
  8. Seeks to "do good"

Negatives related to Wikipedia culture:

  1. Everyone is welcome even if badly behaved; hence problem users return, some users become adept at gaming the system
  2. Significant content can be wiped out, as if it didn't matter. If restored (questionable) that also takes time
  3. Technically skilled people can gain more control; technical and logical and "Picking apart arguments" can trump everything else
  4. Focus on value of contributions rather than "just being part of the community" (and conversely users who don't contribute are not part of the community)
  5. Award system rewards and recognition needed to "move up in the chain of responsibility" (however recognition is often not provided via a balanced objective or consensus approach)
  6. Some disruptive behaviours are allowed or hard to eradicate - infighting, flaming, vandalism, reactive responses, picking apart arguments without personally checking facts, forcing users to defend knowledge (often against people with limited knowledge or an agenda)
  7. Civility issues have a number of flavours where the user is civil but..... (tendentious, intentionally or recklessly makes untruthful statements, wants Wikipedia to be something it isn't, seeks control by exhausting others, "travels with a pack of like-minded editors who can overpower an article or discussion")
  8. Even if the problem editor is addressed the harm they have done to the community (other users) or content is hard to repair

Toolset issues:

  1. Poorly suited for the job
    • Clunky, linear, coding involved, not user friendly, hard for newcomers, impedes contribution
  2. Limited
    • Media linked across projects, unreasonably constrained, cannot replicate other websites
  3. All communication requires writing
    • Slow and cumbersome, omits other communications (body language, expressions, voice tone, etc) -- however does ensure documentation.

Information issues:

  1. Not well rounded by topic or language
    • How should coverage vary by language, should all languages have the same kind of coverage, how to determine focus areas, known to be big gaps in coverage, but how to identify these?
  2. How does Wikipedia ask its users what else they need (or want) on Wikipedia
    • Users may have ideas they lack skill or knowledge to create pages for
    • How to reach a younger audience and get them involved in creation/ideas?

Overall recommendations:

  1. Wikipedia is at a crossroads
    • Needs to decide its brand (and what it's doing, and how it's doing it), take a "hard look" at how it's been operating and what does or doesn't work.
    • Consistent with that, all policies and approaches must be brought into line with that brand (not just lip service), and Wikipedia needs to lead by example.
  2. To be a world encyclopedia means reaching people who are offline, gaining a more diverse contributor base, and being more balanced and rounded in information coverage
    • May involve furnishing computers to people and areas who can't get access
  3. Younger users need to be brought into the contributing circle
    • Minors (children) need knowledge (eg for quality of life, self-betterment, education, etc). Early user involvement teaches them how to use and contribute, they can master the learning curve early, will naturally help and show others how to benefit (eg older people). Also provides safe ways to learn valuable life-skills.
  4. Wikipedia needs to show by example
    • "Gold standard of collaboration"
    • Rules and policies need to be forged that make it a safe place to collaborate (and learn how to collaborate) but also improves overall culture via knowledge and skills
General discussion - scope and remit of Quality Taskforce

FT2 felt this explained Bhneihouse's outlook better, and observed that the umbrella topic of "Quality" split into overlapping areas of external (reader/researcher) quality, internal (editor) quality, perception of quality (what impacts the perception of quality by readers and the media), project quality (overall quality of the project), and objectively what we feel quality should cover. He understood the core remit of the team as "quality of content". A wider focus might be difficult to cover in the time allowed.

Bhneihouse liked the idea of catgorizing quality but felt the overall framework was important; no formal statement said only to look at one part of quality. [We asked about this, see below]. She felt that a framework like this was crucial:

"I want to address what is standing in the way of making Wikipedia what it wants to be because that is the ultimate quality issue.... Then I would like for us to craft a set of recommendations... craft specific "fixes" for problem areas, for example: identifying what teenage girls want on Wikipedia, what kind of tools they might want/need to utilize and crafting a Wikipedia in the Schools program to expose kids to engaging in learning on Wikipedia."
"All of this is going to drive new inroads... For example: while rules and policies need to be consistent, there may be a different mentoring/rule approach to teen centered content or teen users/contributors. They may get a bit more oversight until they get the hang of how they should appropriately contribute.
For self identified technophobes, we may have a mentoring/wizard approach that allows them to do very little other than type and choose something graphically, and those people may need editors who look at the content/wikis for different things such as obvious newbie non tech types of mistakes. [This is] how defining who and what you are, and what your purpose is drives actions... it is those actions that create or negate quality on Wikipedia."
Clarification of taskforce focus

FT2 felt if this degree of uncertainty existed, there was an urgent need to check the remit with with the strategy team. He distinguished quality of content as a sub-topic within quality of project, and suggested these should not be conflated; perhaps setting up a second taskforce to look at the other was best.

Woodwalker concurred in requesting clear guidance on this point.

On asking (email) The taskforce was informed that content quality was intended to be the core focus. However this did not preclude looking at other aspects which was encouraged as well.

General discussion

Sue Gardner strongly supported this thread.
Randomran felt it was "fantastic".
FT2 suggested he might try to do similar for "quality of content".
Bhneihouse suggested a "quality related to wiki-culture" subtopic as well ("addressing making the culture more amenable to new users and offsetting its deficits"), noting all of these would dovetail into quality in the end.
FT2 wrote up a summary of content quality at Task force/Wikipedia Quality/Content quality (discussed separately).

Woodwalker commented on Bhneihouse's final recommendations, agreeing with almost all, with a question over "providing computers to people lacking them" which was a nice ideal but probably untenable for serious impact as a current target.

Bhneihouse responded with further comments (details). Notable points:

  • "This is a long term project. There is a lot of information in the world. The Guttenberg project has something similar going on with literature and from seeing their results I know that this is doable. Perhaps we need to section topic areas off and try to fill in a bit of each and then more of each and then…until those topic areas are better populated. I think this is an area worth discussion - how to approach more comprehensive content - as appropriate for a quality team. Breadth of content creates better quality."
  • "[I want] Wikipedia to be [a] host for working groups for school and university kids. Why not a Wikipedia style "wave"? and Wiki groups? (of course once we get more basic issues under better control.)"
  • "Some of my prof[essor]s won't allow us to discuss our grades on a test or a paper for 24 hours so we really think about what it is they have "said" and what we really want to say ... People who regularly can be shown to not actually read content yet react to it can eventually get a negative rating score of some sort...
  • Teaching people the power of forgiveness, of flexibility, of all the tools they need to be good collaborators is truly KEY if Wikipedia is going to exist in ten years. This how we become the gold standard - by teaching. If knowledge is power then those who teach are truly great. We teach others what we know about how to work together. We figure it out, we define it, we create wizards, we create videos, we do whatever it is we need to do to ensure that people can learn what it is they need to know to participate. And we remove barriers to participation."
  • "[T]his is why Wikipedia is powerful. I think it may be possible to challenge the existing community to be teachers. I think there may be a myriad of ways to entice them to play by rules not of their own making to create a just result. We just haven't explored them all. So while we are adding to the community, we can also heal the community. Each of us has a teacher inside of us".

Woodwalker commented:

  • Lists could be made of missing material for specific areas of expertise. Some knowledge is universal. This would help smaller projects and guide new users where content would be useful.
  • Disagrees with blocking as a norm unless there is clear bad intent. Prefers deal-making ("don't do X or this will happen"): "Most of these well-intending problematic users can become good contributors when they just have a little less freedom/choice where and when to edit. The most surprising aspect to me is that many of them were afterwards thankful".
  • "Editing Wikipedia shouldn't be a matter of simply signing in and then having total freedom, it should be a learning process that only begins with signing in. I understand this doesn't seem compatible with the liberal ideals and mentality of the founders and many of the current incrowd of Wikipedia, yet I think this is a misconception. I think guiding contributors to more constructive ways is in a way even more compatible with our ideals than the total freedom to behave, edit and do as you like we have now."
  • "[Everyone agrees] something has to be done about behaviour. The question is mainly how to convince the communities and how to make a recommendation that will have impact."

Piotrus noted the point about " disruptive behaviours being allowed", adding that there is an increasingly poisonous atmosphere due to failue to effectively address flaming, harassment, etc.

Accepting there is a need for substantive change

Bhneihouse felt that:

"[T]he community itself needs to radically change, it needs to diversify, it needs to feel empowered to police itself and it needs to have policies and guidelines in place that support the community members in acting correctly in the first place and empowers them to police themselves... it is tricky when the body that is "voting" is the one causing the problems... it was a small group that originally got [Wikipedia] started. If something external needed to rein it in and reshape it in order for it to become what it was originally intended to be, that might not be a bad thing".
"[T]he demographics I see at Wikipedia are a bit like an implosion waiting to happen. If something doesn't change, Wikipedia has the potential to be the best idea with the worst implementation people ever heard of. Sometimes, we give up some of our "freedoms" i.e. the freedom for every user to have a say in every decision, in order to get what we wanted in the first place.
I fear that many Wikipedians aren't willing to engage in trade offs.... All of us have seen people with the wrong mindset destroy projects with great potential. We have a choice. We figure out how to fix it and make it better for a lot of other people, in this case, billions of people; or we say it's too difficult to make it work".

FT2 supported this view. Woodwalker felt it was "too pessimistic" and that rating talk edits could "probably" solve conduct issues by social pressure.

User conduct

Bhneihouse drew attention to comments about IP editing and similar pages, to shed light on past proposals tried or rejected.

Woodwalker stated he was saddened due to a current wiki-dispute:

"[W]hat I can't stand is people being too stupid to understand what a discussion is about yet contributing in those discussions in an often aggressive, personally directed and provocative way. I can't stand to be framed every time, being called names even after leaving a discussion... I think it's the idiots that can't communicate in a constructive way we should worry about, not the IPs. As I said, vandalism is probably not the worst problem for quality, the worst problem is wide-spread ignorance combined with self-over-estimation among the most active users."

Randomran felt there were too many users who were "opinionated AND[/OR] self-serving", noting "there's no downside to being opinionated and self-serving so long as you can find a few passive aggressive people to support and protect you".

Bhneihouse felt that including wider demographics would cause more people with "good" motivations to join and that "empowering [administrators] to be vocal, to teach, to ban on actionable offenses, etc. will start to change the culture to 'this behavior is not tolerated'."

Randomran noted the actionable issues were fine, it was the unactionable offenses (passive agrgressive, claims a user was not attacking but stating a firm point, ongoing borderline behaviour that doesn't formally cross a line, "fellow travelling team" support) that are the problem.

Bhneihouse felt insults should be met by a warning and a "respect" culture implemented ("I didn't cross the line" doesn't carry weight if disrespectful). Supporters of poor conduct should face the same result as the conduct they sponsored. Users who don't wish to be part of a well behaved culture get told their access will be moderated.

"In a short time Wikipedia can go from a community where many seem to not respect anyone to a community where people know there are rules and policies they must abide by... Perhaps it is time to stop supporting anarchy and time to make the community responsible to itself. After all, what good is a limitless encyclopedia that supports an online space where users are abusive to each other?".

Randomran felt these were " strong recommendations [with] the potential to work". But he warned that it would be harder in practice than theory:

"[Y]ou have to keep in mind, they usually have 3 or 4 members who do the dirty work, and 15 members who have solid reputations to back them up. They're only human. Sometimes we forgive someone who fights hard for something we believe in, and get angry at someone who politely pushes for something we are against. So the problem isn't that 20 people are all disruptive, but that 3 disruptive people can be forgiven because there are enough good people who kind of appreciate what they're doing."

Philippe noted the Community Health taskforce reached convergent views, a sign (per Bhneihouse) that there was probably validity "brewing".

Woodwalker questioned whether "true believers" (POV warriors) meant the notion of assuming good faith was bankrupt. He concluded it was a vital point, and should be backed up with a more strict principle that such people should be topic banned immediately. They aren't because (he says):

"POV is more difficult to remove than vandalism. It requires more time to analyse. We're all volunteers, no admin wants to spend time on something that is likely to be unrewarding, unpopular or tiresome.
We have been talking about having a "senior editor status". I think it would help, if true believers have no access to or will be stripped of this status. It sounds harsh and elitist, but I think in the end better distinction between user types will raise quality."

Bhneihouse agreed, and noted that it was POV warring that was "elitist" here, because such users presume they have better knowledge than anyone else. "Wikipedia [should] start to quickly identify problem users and hold a hard line about acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It is not that not everyone can play, it's that everyone can play as long as they play nicely."

Randomran noted there were practical issues. POV warriors believe they are doing right, and if a POV warrior and another user argue, "who is the true believer? The one who insists that Wikipedia needs to allow original research? Or the one who insists on reverting and removing original research? A really stubborn editor is going to get a really stubborn response... so which stubborn person are you going to ban? I'm being devil's advocate. But I have direct experience with these kinds of editors... you can't underestimate how hard it is find a solution."

Bhneihouse commented (long post) on these various points, noting agreement on most of them, and adding the following:

  • Lack of explicit statement of Wikipedia's brand permits POV warriors to assert they are doing right
  • Banning users who do not follow rules is fair provided rules are equitable and fairly applied
  • "The key here is to keep "testing" policies/rules/procedures against the brand... I believe that Wikipedia has ideas and beliefs that it follows. I want to see... not some hollow rhetoric about how cool it is to build a comprehensive online encyclopedia, but a real, living, breathing brand statement that encompasses all the values that Wikipedia has or should have".
  • Meanwhile, let's do some short term work on behavioral problems... by putting in places rules/policies/procedures that are consistent with what the brand SEEMS to be. That way, we attack the problem top down and bottom up. (Bhneihouse states this view is via FT2)
Behavioral problems

Philippe asked Bhneihouse how she thought such policies might be put in place.

Bhneihouse proposed the following:

  • Distill all policies to 6 principles/behaviours that are short, memorable, enforceable and widely publicized (disrespect, unfounded original cites, etc)
  • Empower all admins to work on a 3 warning basis (warn, caution, last chance) followed by a block with 2nd chance only if appropriate. Fair even application to all would be critical, no variance or wavering. Those who can't or won't enforce it should not be admins.
  • Content is created by discussion page first. Once the basics of the content are covered an actual article can be created, which would ensure that content pages are verifiable and neutral from the start. (As opposed to create the article first then consider if it's good quality and who will fix it after)
  • By doing this, everyone learns to collaborate, there are clear rules, a loose "team" and some trust exists, articles get created once there is some proposed content and some basic consensus/review, the teamwork will itself fight POV warring somewhat, there is a shift from just contributing, to teaching/educating/mentoring, making the project more collaborative and less competitive.
Taskforce focus

Philippe commented that proposals which would be rejected by communities or otherwise impractical would be wasted. There are already thousands of admins and 100k's of users, who use policies they have developed daily. Their independence of policy making was already part of the mores or embedded philosophies of the communities (and hence brand), as was non-editorial policy making by the Board and its staff. These needed to be honoured. If changing that principle was going to be a taskforce recommendation then so be it (and fine), but in any event, any proposed changes to communal policies would need a clear and communally acceptable migration path. It could not start from a purely "zero" basis.

Woodwalker felt that as all major wikis had their own self-developed policies in place (and perhaps different main issues), the 2 - 4 recommendations should be proposals likely to significantly benefit all projects. But they should not be too general either.

Bhneihouse stated (to Philippe) that the direction things needed to go included thorough brainstorming, a "time consuming process". If the end direction was not understood then the value of taskforce members contributing became questionable. There would be many non-actionable ideas before the best ideas emerged, and "It takes guts to stand up and persuade people that what you are suggesting for them is right for them. It also takes grounding in the background tradition or brand". She requested review of the outline she had proposed (previous section) to see if they made sense, seemed reasonable, were worth auctioning, seemed to reflect the brand, and could be developed as a migration path. There were already people who didn't enjoy the current culture or couldn't edit well in it; so it was questionable whether major changes would significantly increase the "issues" in any practical sense:

"The people who care about what Wikipedia is and what it was meant to be may be smarter than you think when it comes to understanding enforcement of existing policies. The people who will likely rebel the loudest are the people who are vandalizing and spreading non neutral POV.
It's not like this is a free speech area where rights are respected. They cannot yell about Wikipedia denying them free speech - that is not a right on Wikipedia due to its mandate as an encyclopedia. So are you saying that Wikipedia is worried that people will say "Oh, no, you cannot curb my right to do X?" Wikipedia already does, it's just that nobody enforces it.
Personally I do not think admins enforcing rules in a volunteer community with a shared purpose when the rules make it easier to do your "job" will create a rebellion. I think, as I said above, that Wikipedians are already rebelling. The Wikipedia brand doesn't say "we won't have any rules." The brand says "we will be the best, most comprehensive online encyclopedia"."

She felt more time was needed. "It took Wikipedia how long to get into this mess? Can't we have a little more time to figure out how to get Wikipedia out of it?"

Philippe noted that funding and deadlines were budget driven, and due to these financial constraints the original hard limit on timing (mid-January) existed for recommendations.

Wikipedia has a strong anti-authoritarian community component

Randomran states to Bhneihouse:

"I'm actually really sympathetic to your vision. But as someone who has tried to fix policy and fix the culture, I think you have to recognize just how hostile that Wikipedia has been towards authority, and it's a more than a significant minority. There are already numerous people who feel that we shouldn't have administrators, let alone arbcom... or at least that we shouldn't entrust them with very much power.
Arbcom is absolutely terrified of tackling any content or policy issue, aside from enforcing the behavioral norms that already exist. And they're elected by the Wikipedians! Can you imagine their reaction if a few random Wikipedians on an unelected task force got to change the rules to whatever they thought would work? ... For better or for worse, it's a non-starter. (And I honestly believe it's for the worse.)
So knowing that the trustees are not going to make Wikipedia a markedly more authoritarian place... what can we get the trustees to do? Maybe empower some administrators? Create some processes that will let the community settle issues more effectively, so that true believers will have a harder time obstructing the process? Change the organizational structure a little? We have to take a surgical approach. Can we achieve a big impact with something small and strategic?"

Philippe concurred. The suggestions were close to administrators current work already. He suggested he could walk other taskforce members around a typical administrators workload so they could see for themselves what was done and what issues were coming up, to allow a shared understanding of the role: "I'm not 100% sure that you're operating off a totally informed viewpoint about what administrators do, because I'm not sure you've walked the mile in their shoes"

Bhneihouse's post before leaving

Bhneihouse wrote a post expressing her frustrations and views on the overall strategy process,in which she stated she was done and could be blocked or banned if needed. (link):

  1. No comprehensive induction material/URLs, poor collaborative tools, poor management, disconnect in relation to timeline, seeking hard recommendations shortly after commencement, "people who know how to nurture" and to "provide everything we need" missing, team demands to work in a hurry dictated by budgetary requirements.
  2. Wikimedia is adrift, needing people willing to make tough decisions to ensure the idea stays workable, and admission of mistakes by existing participants where required.
  3. "If Wikipedia really wants to be the best online encyclopedia it may just have to suck it up and admit that it needs rules and regulations and policies and procedures to ensure a liveable workspace.... [Y]ou go anywhere else offline and psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that people need boundaries... veritable "home rule" at Wikipedia is [not] consistent with its brand or its mission".
  4. Proposal - WMF should work with a brand consultancy agency to "assess, qualify and state its brand" (noting this may take time as there are "millions of stakeholders"), then create strategy and engage change consultants to implement the brand across its projects.
  • The needed work cannot be done in 60 days, especially with a newly formed team figuring out the basics.

Randomran agreed the process could be frustrating at times but that "we have to do the best that we can". Wikipedia had become to tolerant of problems and was hindered by poor boundary setting, but excessive new boundaries were not perhaps the answer. He gave this example:

"If you want to program a flock of mechanical birds to fly in a realistic way, it's tempting to get really complicated. Birds must follow a leader. To avoid everyone crashing, you create a hierarchy. Bird one takes the lead, bird two and three follow close behind, until you create a flying V. They must follow the trajectory. They're not allowed to stray too far. To create realism, randomize the velocities and distances within a tight range. Randomly swap their places on occasion.
But one thing computer scientists figured out was that you could actually achieve flocking behavior with a few simple rules: steer towards the average heading of your neighbors, and avoid crowding. Somehow, these two rules manage to create a very realistic flock of birds.
I think the lesson is that yes, task forces will need to produce new rules. But can we find just a few rules that have a huge impact?"

He concluded that " we can empower the community to solve its own problems" (a "surgical approach"):

"Something has gone wrong with our community's processes. Maybe the processes didn't scale very well to the explosion in volunteers, or maybe people have found new ways to abuse those processes. But either way, the processes broke down, and the community could no longer adapt to new problems. I think the most effective thing we can do is fix the processes so that the community can adapt once again. We don't need to direct the community's evolution. We simply need to remove the obstacles that are preventing the community from evolving on its own".

Bhneihouse commented:

"Then you are saying that the brand of Wikipedia is: "the largest most comprehensive online encyclopedia built by a self governing, self correcting community"
Up to now, Wikipedia has said: "the largest most comprehensive online encyclopedia" and mention of the community has been omitted. Do you see how knowing your brand drives your actions?
I care about doing it right. And if doing it right is distilling all of this down to the two rules that will get the flock to "fly right" then I believe that the task forces should have the time to figure those two rules out. I also believe that if, across task forces, we are all coming up with that the solution to quality content is that everyone needs to "fly right" that it is foolish to continue to focus on "quality content" as a subset and force the "answers" down that path. Instead, the different groups should shift their focus to figuring out the two rules to get the community to "fly right"."

Randomran asked reflectively, how you get a "giant" to move: "Very slowly, and only if you can trick them into believing that's where they were already planning on going".
Bhneihouse responded "[If I can take] five months to do actual research (original and secondary) prior to making recommendations of how to and why to move a giant of about 50,000 people, then why wouldn't Wikipedia give more than two months to move its giant of millions of people?"

Disruptive users again

Randomran noted that we would want to spend time on research, but that in practical terms, "under the circumstances, we can only do our best". He notes two key problems:

  • A lot of issues are grey. Example: - "Disruptive [users] can survive on Wikilawyering and the support of a good cabal. Someone relies heavily on a company's press releases to write an article that promotes their product. Someone tries to delete it as original research, and as an advert. They respond that "the information is verified, and it's written in a neutral tone instead of an advert." All hell breaks loose over an issue like that. Have they crossed the line?"
  • Policies are descriptive not prescriptive. They can be rewritten by anyone who can obtain consensus; they aren't written in stone or entrenched by Wikipedia's founders. So there is a difficult and very uncertain line between a user being "opinionated" and "disruptive", which is not conducive to deciding when to take administrator action. "Is it fair to exclude someone because they disagree with a policy the way that it is now? What if they fight that policy tooth and nail, and swear up and down that we should "ignore all rules" because they truly believe they are enhancing the encyclopedia? Are they being disruptive?..."

Woodwalker feels this is always evident in behaviour. "when discussions follow the form of intelligent inquiry, consensus will eventually always shift towards higher quality (more neutral, more balanced). It's the contributors that prevent intelligent inquiry (by being rude, by editing against the consensus, etc) that form the real barrier. I am opinionated in many subjects, so are all of us. Yet I keep that in mind when I edit, or simply don't edit the subjects I think I'm not neutral in".

Randomran felt the grey area was a major factor. For example, "a new user who thought something was wrong or untrue on-wiki and said "stop pushing lies" or "I'm an expert, you need to step aside and listen to me" - would that be that offensive? What if a user is one of many people who support a given stance, so that when an admin says a point is "original research" or otherwise insufficient quality he is overwhelmed by furious users?" He commented that at present, anything but obvious stuff is very difficult to address because of these types of issues. In such cases there are often many users who will claim it's right, or "fair game".
Philippe concurred.

Woodwalker felt that Bhneihouse's "brand" was the similar to his term "factors of quality". He felt that "Edits that kill neutrality and/or balance are by far worse [than vandalism, which we block for anyway], because they are so difficult to recognize. We should be prepared to be at least as punitive in such cases. That said, I'm always in favour of second chances, and third, as long as the user shows to have gained insight in why his behaviour was wrong". Bhneihouse concurred.

End note - communication

MissionInn.Jim pointed to the Wikipedia article on "communication" and specifically to the research showing that some 93% of communication was non-verbal, which "partly explains why there is so much discord on Wikipedia": "People read too much or too little into what is being said, or they just don't grasp intended subtleties because the reader applies their own emphasis on words and interpretation based on their own state of mind. The writer's vocal and physical cues are cut out of the conversation. Misinterpretation quickly escalates into arguments and negative behavior. I find it is critical that I divorce myself from all emotion whenever I write or read something on Wikipedia...."

Woodwalker concurred, noting when Wikipedia stops being "a nice hobby" people leave or take a break. "if we really want to be able to raise quality to a higher level than the ruder part of our contributors is able to understand, we have to somehow get over the barrier of discussions being decided by ignorance and self-over-estimation".