Talk:Story of Wikimedia Editors

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Initial comments

Just want to say that this looks very good so far. It makes a lot of sense and is very comprehensive. I'll wait to see what other people say too... but if you want any help, feel free to engage in some self-criticism. Great job. Randomran 00:24, 11 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

  • The Story of Wikimedia Editors seems to end in 2005. And it does not tell of the creation of the other Wikipedia projects. We need to expand it more but I don't know the history to do it. FloNight♥♥♥ 19:57, December 10, 2009 (UTC)
    Telling the story of the other projects would perhaps improve this one -- since those started with a different founding community, that had a few years' development on Wikipedia itself. Sj
I agree with Random, it tells the story well, I think. I've added a bit about tools used for patrolling recent changes and how they might have tended to alienate newbies. --Bodnotbod 12:18, 11 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Early years

It may be that many early adopters were very smart, and well educated, but is that no longer the case for the core community? I still think really dedicated Wikimedians are a special breed. If early adopters deserve a pedestal I would go for their willingness to work on a project with a touch of foolhardy idealism, without clear indicators that their efforts would make much impact in the world. And even then I wonder does that feed mythology? They probably did it first and foremost for sheer intrinsic pleasure (which is also mentioned in the text). I'm probably not the only Wikipedian who as a child kept a notebook for interesting facts (e.g. the names and order of the planets), just for the sake of knowing. Erik Zachte 17:19, 11 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

<nod> To the extent that this was ever true, it still is today. But I think that most people, if they manage to understand how WP works and think the way the project does, can find joy in it, and come to love doing it. Which people happen to take those first dozen steps may be as much random as anything. For me an essential aspect of wikipedia is that there is no single facet common to active editors; they are all people who have found something wonderful that they can contribute to, regardless of their own background or training or interests. Sj 19:20, 30 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Let's be generous in our self esteem

It proved that online communities can –to a degree-- self-correct and evolve and adapt over time. True, it's always to a degree. But in a wider perspective our self organisation has been an outstanding succes. IMHO no need to be too modest here. Erik Zachte 17:38, 11 December 2009 (UTC)[reply]

But not too generous

"Between 2003 and 2005, though, it had turned into a battleground: a small army of super-intelligent geeky editors, defending Wikipedia against never-ending hordes of vandals, clueless newcomers, POV-pushers, charlatans and scammers."" This section strikes me as hyperbole, but maybe I did not watch enough Star Trek  ;-)

Please, seriously, if there is hyperbole, edit to tone it down! I have a general tendency to overstate for clarity: if the story is too cartoonish, please feel free to give it more nuance :-) (And as an aside, thank you everyone for editing: I hugely appreciate it.) Sue Gardner

Editors and Administrators

Hi, nice article. Is the article lamenting the good old days of minor anonymous edits and rate of growth of some article. As one admin recently put it while reverting, Wikipedia needs to focus more on quality now not quantity, those days are gone. As a new member of the community I find that to be a little disappointing- there is also a trend of puritanical administration being followed today where a new editor can't add or edit a line unless he can find a "reputable" source for the said information, even if its something so apparent as someones race or height, the source has to be "credible" and fulfill some internal quality standards that only the person in charge knows or the cited source may be used in certain places and not others. they follow the guidelines so closely and delete anything that might be in the grey area that the term Guideline fundamentalist would aptly suit them. Anyone care to comment? Theo10011 Dec. 14 2009

That a good point -- there's no reason for new contribution to be so much harder than they used to be -- there are still millions of articles and billions of interesting facts, people, and places to write about. But self-organized structure has moved towards a focus on quality that does not allow incremental improvement, which makes it less fun, as you point out. The history of WP is creation of beautiful things starting with very basic quality and iterating, yet removing any material that doesn't meet the final level of quality/citation/verifiability seems to deny that process. Sj 18:17, 30 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Some changes.

Changes made / text removed or changed:

young, somewhat literal in their thinking, and awkward.

The age average of the original founders was skewed above what it is now. People who were net-savvy then tended to be older, people with wiki experience moreso.

and because young men are typically not encouraged to place a high value on social harmony

The early years of wikipedia development spent much more time (proportionally) discussing social harmony, the wiki way, and what all this meant for meaningful colalboration on knowledge building than in years since.

they were all obviously, self-evidently highly intelligent.

The interesting thing about wikipedia is that you don't need to be highly intelligent to be a fabulous contributor. Interested in learning and writing, yes. It's a process that supports those with interest in becoming a productive contributor to world-class encyclopedic articles. The whole "experts v. amateurs" struggle is partly the idea that anyone can be [part of] an expert [team], and that certification of high-intelligence or solo expert knowledge is not a requirement to join in such work. Sage's post on burnout is relevant -- the implementation of this idea has its flaws and has often turned away highly intelligent experts who would make great contributors but bristle at the process. The shared trait of those who stay has been a belief in the underlying process or ability to stay cool.


The original goal was first to make something useful, useful enough to be as good as britannica, but not necessarily 'high-quality' in the way it is currently viewed. See the above section for an example of how modern quality-control measures are quite anti-wiki (and possibly counterproductive in the long run) in a way that had primacy then.

...couldn't resist the temptation to vandalize it: they blanked pages,

Vandalism was popular from the start -- the great thing was, vandalism was no big deal; changes could always be reverted. "Page blanking" was considered a valid edit in some early wikis, and there was even a philosophical debate about whether one wanted revision history -- if someone really thinks an article shouldn't exist, maybe the next person /should/ restart from scratch. I think we're all glad now that meme didn't win out :-)

Fans started writing hagiographies.

If anything was popular even before vandalism, it was this. No change.

People started introducing bias and distortions into Wikipedia. By this time, neutrality was well-established as a core Wikipedia principle.

Early flame wars and edit wars in '01 were all about bias and distortion. Many philosophers had strong views about one term or another; and people subscribing to competing worldviews clashed in the first months of the project. That got a lot better with the introduction of the five pillars.

Those people didn't understand Wikipedia's purpose, and started flooding it with stuff that didn't make sense in an encyclopedia: poems, personal essays, commentaries, recipes, fiction, press releases.

These were part of Wikipedia from day 1. Where to put them was an open question, slowly resolved (on meta, in userspace, on other projects. one could add 'dicdefs, recipes, textbook pages, quotations, primary sources' which ended up each in their own Project -- but again, there was no change in '03 or later.

tried to buy it, tried to put ads on it,

outsiders didn't really try to put ads on it, they just kept suggesting it. and people trying to buy wikipedia outright weren't an issue, from a community pespective.

and Wikipedia was an easy target, because it wasn't protected by an army of PR people.

not having an army of PR people and obviously being a grassroots project probably helped as much as it hurt; there was no entity to fight with. so some people said nice things, some said not so nice things, but everyone acknowledged it as a product of massive distributed collaboration, which made it very non-threatening.

I've never before heard the suggestion that most media coverage in those days was that 'wikipedia is a joke' -- certainly in the tech-news circles that wrote about the project most often, and that were linked to from wikipedia pages and mailing lists, that was not the common thread.

far beyond the expectations of anyone involved.

By late 2003, many enthusiasts expected wikipedia to take over the world of knowledge. people differed in their opinion of how soon it would happen (Nth article pools have existed for a long time!) but the expectation and hope and intent was there; the vision wasn't considered crazy or unreachable.

added sections

philosopher, wiki-user, and linguaphile bias in founding community

there were definite and recognized biases in the founding community. being geeky or an early adopter, aside from the sense in which anyone trying out new online tools after the dot-com bubble was slightly geeky, was on the list but not at the top.

Some people not interested in the wiki values of collaboration, discussion, and good faith started editing. There was less time to welcome newcomers into the philosophy of wikis, so a new culture grew out of the next wave of contributors. They were also drawn to the project because they liked adding to a shared knowledgebase, but there was more of a focus on social norms to keep order in a community of 100,000 than norms to bring about harmonious collaboration.

...Rather than moving from a free for all of good, awkward, isolated editors to a policy-project filled with clueless newbies, the early years had lots of policy discussion and consideration of human dynamics, and later on this same sort of discussion turned more towards control and away from the emergent strengths of collaboration.

new bullet on newbies increasing

this deserves to be treated separately from vandalism; it is an obvious and acknowledged source of opportunity as well as an overhead; whereas the other is simply a burden. developing more tools for dealing joyfully with necomers would be welcomed by the vandal-fighters and rc patrollers; it just sometimesa doesn't happen in the press to improve tools that address both.

Sj 19:12, 30 January 2010 (UTC)[reply]