Newbies or Better information?

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It is true that humans are emotional. That is why humans are having a harder time becoming Wikipedia editors. To edit on Wikipedia requires essentially abandoning many normal human impulses, such as the urge to advocate for causes and write one's beliefs. Instead we are supposed to be neutral, and simply focus on refactoring previously published material without getting emotional about it. All we are supposed to do is summarize and attribute what other people have written about "notable" topics. The most important personality trait for a Wikipedia editor is wikt:sangfroid - the ability to remain calm for example when deletionists are calling one's work "crufty" and "non-notable".

I'm not suggesting Wikipedia's requirements for editors necessarily represent the highest possible form of human attainment, but rather that these requirements are distinctly unobvious to new editors. Most people who decide to start editing on Wikipedia have no clue what they are in for. They don't realize we have a thriving community of deletionists who have been getting better for years at destroying the work of successive waves of new users making the same new user mistakes. If we want to "fix" what is "wrong" with our "software", I'd suggest trying to make it more informative as to what editing on Wikipedia is really about. Editing on Wikipedia is about figuring how to defend what you want to write against the criteria for speedy deletion and all the other rules about what we cannot keep on Wikipedia. I'm thinking about those rules every time I edit. The new user probably doesn't even know those rules exist.

Imagine building a minefield, and noticing that fewer people are making it out alive each year. Is the solution to make the minefield look more enticing, so more people will blunder in without realizing it is a minefield? Or might it be better to clearly label all the mines before people step on them? I don't think it is charitable to lure people into a minefield under a false pretext. We should be honest about how many articles we delete. Why doesn't every first-time editor know that number?

23:24, 11 March 2011