Value, respect, and strive for diversity in editors
From the point of view of our flagship project, i.e. the English Wikipedia, I think this might be misleading. If it means more participation by women that's fine, although I am afraid the low percentage of women in the project is best explained as a high percentage of young men that is caused by the same mechanism that generally makes young men (try to) prove their value by undertaking all sorts of more or less interesting things. I think it's fine, because more participation by women would likely improve our content.
But I can't help noticing that on the English Wikipedia there is a large percentage of users who are not actually there to be editors and work on encyclopedic content. Instead, they find other things to do that are more fun to them, such as making sure that every policy is interpreted as literally as possible, mass-producing stub articles with no meaningful content, defending totally hopeless articles against deletion, arguing for the deletion of obviously notable articles. And then there are those who are mainly present to push a specific point of view.
It seems to me that the German Wikipedia has a much more effective way of dealing with such individuals, and consequently presents a nicer editing environment overall. And I guess the difference is because the German Wikipedia is less tolerant of incompetence and antisocial behaviour. We should not encourage an excessively argumentative editor who tries to write in the language of the project in question but fails to do so comprehensibly. We should not encourage paranoid editors who are stressed by the environment and cause excessive drama. We should not encourage the busybodies who misunderstand a project's policies and cause endless disruption trying to enforce their personal interpretation. We should not encourage users who take every slight misunderstanding personally and bring it up years later. Giving such users more value and respect deteriorates the atmosphere for the productive project members and makes us less likely to get the kind of diversity that we need to bring the content forward.
Therefore I think the point "value, respect, and strive for diversity in editors" should be balanced with something about professionalisation. The smaller projects can be extremely quiet workplaces and probably need a bit more liveliness to motivate participants. But we need a strategy for reducing the noise in the larger projects. The more the English Wikipedia turns into an online role-playing game, the more users it will attract who are looking for precisely that, and will try all sorts of tricks, such as copyright violations or mass-creation of stubs, to gather XPs so they can advance their character to higher levels.
The problem with this noise is that the person at fault depends on your interpretation of policy. And the policies are often contradictory, or vaguely worded, or prone to a sort of Talmud-like reinterpretation that isn't adequately communicated to editors. Some are enforced ferociously against newcomers with no experience in the project, while others are paper tigers that never actually lead to administrative action. The drama results from these levels of confusion about what is permitted. For example:
- Troublesome editors are often subjected to a "topic ban". Every topic ban is worded to prohibit them from editing "articles about X". But these bans are enforced against them if they make any edit to any article that is related to the topic. For some reason, admins object to the idea of just telling the editors that they're not allowed to make edits about X... inevitably leading to more drama.
- New editors are struck hard and fast with hard-sounding template messages about their alleged misdeeds. Many of these templates are explicitly written not to assume good faith. When they protest, they are then admonished for "incivility", and within the first hundred edits they can be banned indefinitely. Nobody warns them that civility is a one way street.
- The BLP policy prohibits "articles that are unsourced and entirely negative in tone", but the sub-policy on attack articles makes it clear that even sourced negative articles can be deleted; and as evidenced by recent discussions on Jimbo Wales' page, articles that bring up anything negative will generally fall to the axe unless they are about someone of great notability.
Many such problems exist - the trouble is, the discussions don't actually resolve policy problems. No matter what is decided the argument continues until either someone is banned or one side wins an edit war by perseverence alone. There are two forces on Wikipedia, the inclusionists who want to preserve all verifiable relevant content, and the deletionists who want to get rid of anything they don't like. People may be members of one or the other on specific issues, but within an issue, the global sentiment runs more to war than negotiation.
So we have two theories Theory 1. Good experienced editors are being discouraged by incivil editors who rules lawyer them, argue but never accept consensus unless it follows their opinion. The only way for Wikipedia to grow is to make it a safer place for experts and to come down hard on editors who don't follow the consensus.
Theory 2. Enthusiastic new editors are being scared off by pedants who pick at them over every little thing. The only way for wikipedia to grow is to lighten up and give people a chance to make some mistakes.
This is quite an important question. The quality of our projects depends on the quality as well as the quantity of our editors. How do we steer editors into the roles that best suit their abilities and temperament? How do we attract the editors who will be most useful? How do we get rid of the editors who, by accident or by design, only make the project worse?
I think both of your theories are correct. As always, we need to find the right balance, and I commented because in the current document I could see only one side (Theory 1). On the other hand there are people like the guy who appeared on the English Wikipedia and seemed unable to form a single short English sentence. Instead he kept spamming people with excessively long sonnets that (so far as I know) nobody could understand -- although some of the words he used suggested that the sonnets were custom-built and somehow related with the questions he had been asked -- and very long, confused paragraphs full of eccentric formatting.
That kind of thing can disrupt an article completely if it takes too long for the community to agree that such a user needs to be banned for using up much more of productive editors' time than he is worth. And a lot of people, especially experts, are simply not prepared to work in such an environment.
At the German Wikipedia it's relatively normal to block people with the reason "no discernible intent for encyclopedic collaboration". For the English Wikipedia this is an unacceptable reason unless a user is actually vandalising.
You say "At the German Wikipedia it's relatively normal to block people with the reason "no discernible intent for encyclopedic collaboration". For the English Wikipedia this is an unacceptable reason unless a user is actually vandalising." This seems to be a cultural difference. It is doubtful such a no-nonsense approach would be generally supported on the English Wikipedia. If nothing else, it involves jumping to conclusions rather quickly. People often play around a bit before they get down to work. Assume good faith is a sound approach.
I'll give you a case in question - me - a UK Wikipedian
I joined Wikipedia in 2006 and was initially interested in just one article (like most wikipedians). I transformed the article from a few paragraphs to a fairly comprehensive entry. Along the way I encountered the application of some of the really important rules that aren't really talked about to new members (verifiability, copyright, sources, etc).
A little later, the page gets marked for deletion as it's considered non notable. It sails through its AfD and we move on. Then new guidelines appear out of the blue for the subject area. These are initially draft proposals (that as a wikipedian working in the specific area of the project, I wasn't made aware of it). One editor decides that these new draft guidelines are in fact de-facto rules, proceeding to mark the article for deletion again as it breaches the new guidelines.
Through the subsequent AfD (that it goes through), I found the project and the new draft guidelines and they are completely biased towards an american system that has no basis to be applied in other countries (including the UK). On questioning the new guidelines, it becomes apparent that it doesn't matter what I say as the English Wikipedia is predominately American and maintains some bias to that. Combining this with incivility and insults in other article edits (including a specific persecution) the result is that I have little drive to participate in the project any more.
Both of the theories are absolutely bang on. As far as the specific talk page disruptors are concerned, you have a genuine point. trouble is that with Joe Wikipedian having to defend almost every edit to an article, there is a specific danger you will end up blocking the wrong people.
I think the thing I'm trying to say is that to get this value, respect, and strive for diversity in editors, the whole culture of the encyclopedia needs to change to the collaborative aim we all want.
However, The simple truth is that it won't.
I believe the major issue is the conflict between inclusionists and deletionists. Deletionism on Wikipedia is rampant, malign and completely indefensible. It has demotivated many well-intentioned and capable people from contributing new articles, and anything beyond minor edits. Until the struggle between inclusionists and deletionists is resolved decisively in favour of the inclusionists, Wikipedia will have great trouble attracting and keeping new editors.
This begs a very interesting idea. Should Inclusionism (or something that conveys the concept) be an explicit part of our goal set? I for one am a rampant inclusionist and wholeheartedly agree with Rubywine’s thought above. Deletion mechanisms are indeed necessary for a variety of reasons, but Deletion should never be seen as a desirable outcome. When deletion is required, it simply means that some other aspect of the system has failed. The system must overwhelming encourage inclusionist behavior that leads to broader quality content coverage and broader and diverse participation while at the same time implementing mechanisms that severely mitigate or reduce the need for deletion. In other words, if we could find a way to convey the idea that deletions are ultimately a bad outcome, regardless of how necessary they are, then we could make great strides toward our broader goals in content and participation. So the question is: Should the Inclusionism concept be incorporated into some part of our goal set?--Mike Cline 15:29, 7 May 2010 (UTC)
Taking a side in that conflict will do more harm than good. Sometimes we try to give a shield to one side, and then they learn to use that shield as a weapon. Both sides have legitimate goals, but those goals are often contaminated by wikilawyers, cabals, and the like. Both sides.
What we really need is some kind of dispute resolution process where it's possible that reasonable inclusionists and deletionists can build consensus, away from the disruptive "my way or the highway" inclusionists and deletionists who would rather fight than build consensus.
I fundamentally agree with your motivation on this. Such conflicts must be avoided and if they can’t be avoided, conflict resolution mechanisms should be efficient and effective. Where I disagree (I think) is with the premise itself that there are (or should be) sides in this. Your statement: Both sides have legitimate goals… is problematic. I do not see Inclusion or Deletion as Sides that have legitimate but conflicting goals. Both are philosophical bents aimed at improving the project—improving content scope and quality. Inclusionists improve scope of content and quality with a more liberal approach to rules. Deletionists improve quality with a more conservative approach to the rules. Both philosophies impact participation (good and bad) in a variety of ways, especially with new participants. The words inclusion and deletion are probably so poisoned as concepts in the project that we shouldn’t be using them. That said, I stand by my comment above that Deletion should never be seen as a desirable outcome. When deletion is required, it simply means that some other aspect of the system has failed.--Mike Cline 18:32, 7 May 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for your positive, constructive comments, Mike. I agree wholeheartedly in return with most of what you've said. Inclusionism and deletionism are indeed philosophical bents, with the common goal of improving content scope and quality, but opposing approaches to achieving those goals. And that's why I believe the conflict needs to be resolved decisively in favour of inclusionism; I see deletionism as an aggressive and authoritarian approach to content control that has no legitimate place in the civilised management of a global resource. Owing to the fact that it has driven away so many contributors, Wikipedia is facing a crisis in sustainability. The only thing you say with which I cannot agree is this: "The words inclusion and deletion are probably so poisoned as concepts in the project that we shouldn’t be using them." The philosophical conflict is a real one, and these words describe it well. Using different words won't change anything. I believe the conflict needs to be faced squarely, and if it isn't resolved, then nothing will change.
Funny that there is always someone to raise the inclusionist / deletionist debate even here.
To rebound from another discussion, i think there are to much effort wasted from both sides to pass for the "Good guys". The "we are the heroes and they are the villains" propaganda is tiring moderate editors.
I have to agree with KrebMarkt. I've seen great "inclusionists" and "deletionists" become administrators, and I've seen some of them come together to find compromises where they merge articles, create lists, or modify policies. Then I've seen inclusionists and deletionists where their main purpose on Wikipedia is to obstruct and game every system they can find in order to include/delete articles, regardless of quality... and otherwise attack and demonize anyone who doesn't agree with them.
And so I have a hard time listening to anyone from either side who is quick to say "the only way to fix Wikipedia is to get rid of the other guys".
Without the slightest foundation, you have dismissed me as being intent upon accepting any contribution regardless of its quality. Now that's demonisation. Deletionists run rampant on Wikipedia, deleting new articles within minutes or seconds of their publication, on wholly spurious grounds. There is no phoney consensus that needs to be built between reasonable civilised behaviour and vandalism. What is needed is a clear commitment to stop the vandalism.
I haven't dismissed you for your content viewpoint. I'm pointing out that you will be unpersuasive if you represent your side as "reasonable civilized behavior" and represent the other side as "vandalism". This kind of vilification is a tactic employed by both deletionists and inclusionists, and this tactic doesn't work on people who haven't entrenched themselves in the battleground.
It's like talking to a brick wall. You are so rigid and bureaucratic it's not true. Did you read what I said? Articles are deleted within seconds of publication. Without discussion. Describing that as vandalism isn't vilification. For your information, I am not entrenched in the debate. I rarely ever visit Wikipedia. I was driven away from it two years ago by deletionists, like a lot of other people I've met since, in real life.
It's not like talking to a brick wall, it IS a brick wall. It's impossible to open the door to a real discussion and real solution if there isn't a deeper and broader look at the whole debate.
I actually agree with you that a lot of articles are deleted too quickly. And even for the articles that are rightfully deleted -- like biographies of living people that are entirely built from an editor's personal feelings -- I agree that it has led to a bad first impression for many editors. But you're going to hit a wall if your entire argument is "I side with the inclusionists". Maybe you were lucky enough not to see it, but there's a lot of rotten behavior on both sides of the debate.
First, i think the whole inclusion/deletion philosophic debate is rather off topic because that mostly focused around the English Wikipedia while recommendations are meant to be implementable in every single Wikipedia. There are Wikis where inclusion/deletion debate is near-non existent. Your view is over English wiki centric.
Second, the Foundation has not a word to say on the current editing ideologies running across the Wikies. Thus the Foundation will certainly not take a position in the inclusion/deletion philosophic debate. If the Foundation has to take a position, it will be to tighten its view over the verifiability of the contents. The Foundation will certainly do it with the BLP related contents over every Wikis.
I haven't got the slightest idea what any of that means. You're speaking a foreign language to me.
Let me see if I can help translate (I am not endorsing his opinion, just explaining it as I understand it): Your issues are very specific to the English-language Wikipedia. Wikipedias in other languages don't all have the kind of problem you're talking about. The Wikimedia Foundation is interested in strategy as it applies to every language's Wikipedia. They are not going to take a side in the inclusionists vs. deletionists fight. The last two sentences I'm not 100% sure of, because I don't know how one "tightens a view." Hopefully KrebMarkt will explain.
Clarifying my awful English.
The area where the Foundation is the most inclined to take a position is on the Verifiability of the contents and its going for a stricter interpretation of the Verifiability policy starting with the BLPs related contents.
Why i'm writing about Verifiability? Well more than 80% of the contents on all Wiki are unsourced thus could be removed at sight. I find rather ironic to fight over articles which could end up as dried husks because the contents failed to be asserted with reliable sources.
In my perception Verifiability is way scarier than any inclusion guidelines currently in application over every Wikis.
Verifiability is one of those "paper tigers" I mentioned. You're a hundred times more likely to be criticized for asking a reasonable question on the article Talk page than for adding an unsourced fact to the article itself. An unverifiable fact is at risk of being deleted someday, but in political articles a controversial fact will get deleted in five minutes no matter how many sources you have for it. (By political articles I mean narrowly, BLPs of politicians and articles about political beliefs, groups, or concepts — curiously, articles that don't fall into this precise category, like An Inconvenient Truth, seem immune to this problem, as if no one is paid to watch them)
Verifiability isn't a paper tiger or you can count the whole English wiki unsourced BLPs drama as a non-event.
And there is the Verifiability scorched earth tactic.
You have a "grudge" with an article that ended with a no consensus in AfD, tags fews unsourced facts with the local wiki "citation needed" tag variant.
Wait a week or two if the facts are still unsourced remove them. Repeat the two steps again and again until the article is completely botched and the closest thing to an empty husk.
People can fight as much as they want over articles, it's not much a problem. However if such conflicts expand over contents using Verifiability as a weapon of mass blanking then we will have a hell time.
Yes, a completely unverified article can be scratched; my point is, no one ever goes to a contributor's talk page and tell him that if he keeps entering unverifiable data "you will be blocked from further editing" and so on. And many completely unsourced articles do remain (I'm not saying that's actually a bad thing, btw, just that different policies have very different levels of enforcement and these aren't indicated to the new user).
Allow me to explain my view of the never-ending inclusionist-deletionist debate, that appears to exist in almost every project. What we have is two groups of people who have fundamentally different views of what something being included really means for the project.
An inclusionist will look at a page up for possible deletion, and finds value in the page. They see an useless addition as being a small problem, and so long as the page adds value, the page should be kept. What if someone might find the page useful? Someone really worked on this, to help people. How could this just be tossed out like that? It is added content, a clear improvement, unless of course it is a totally useless page. Why would anyone favor deletion, unless absolutely necessary? These deletionists really need to be stopped, the situation is awful.
A deletionist sees a project. Thousands, millions of pages, all grouped together, every page another drop of water filling an ocean, another grain of sand on the pile. It continues to grow, continually, with more being added all the time. The content is taken care of by Wikimedians who work at it so much, removing what is harmful to the project at large. Naturally, when seeing an addition up for deletion, the thing to look at is whether it poses a threat to the rest of the project. Is the content up to standards, helpful, the kind of thing we want the project to look like? What if the project was completely open to this kind of content? Is this the kind of thing we want? If endless amounts of content like this were to be added, would it be helpful or harmful? The single grain of sand on the pile is insignificant, and should be kept if it really is a helpful contribution, what the content should be like. Otherwise, the correct course of action is to remove it, correct the problem, and protect the rest of the content fully. A project cannot function with a community that keeps every useless bit of junk that someone throws in. Someone needs to keep everything clean. Why are there all these people trying to fill the project with junk, keeping so much that shouldn't be kept?
The continual debate can not end. A project filled entirely with either of these perspectives would end in disaster. Any "fix" will be unhelpful.
This is a pretty responsible look at the debate. We need people who want a broad amount of content, and we need people who make sure that there are some minimum quality standards in place. I agree that the debate cannot "end". But what I would like to see is for the two sides to be organized in a way that maximizes the benefits of both sides, and minimizes the friction.
I've seen it work on a small scale: a deletionist finds a bad article that probably can't stand on its own two feet, while an inclusionist says that they should work together to merge it somewhere else. Or a deletionist finds a whole topic area that is just blatant promotion and original research, and an inclusionist comes in to request a few months while BOTH editors look for sources. In both cases, the end result is that we cover a lot of content, and still meet some basic level of quality.
That's the real "end" to this debate. Not that one side wins, but that both sides are organized in a process where they can work together.
Actually we could put this into into a formal algorithm like this one: if the deletionist believe an article is below quality minimum its tagged and gets a long time (like half a year) to get over this minimum quality. If it hasn't jumped over the minimum by then it is transferred to the archive. Actually different quality classes could deliver this right away. If somebody only want to look at class A articles he might restrict his own view on wikipedia to only class A articles.
The rationale behind is: server space is cheap and getting cheaper everytime. One can afford to keep almost everything easily. However not everything is equal, not an measures of quality.
I agree that time can be a big part of getting deletionists and inclusionists to work together, and balance quality and scope. Rather than putting things to a vote, you flag it as a concern, and depending on the article you give time to address the concern. Controversies and hoaxes would get very little time because they can damage Wikimedia's reputation, but more neutral content might have more time to improve. Newer articles might get more time, but articles that have existed for a longer time with no improvement might get less time.
Of course, we can't just force this compromise down peoples' throats. But I suspect that if you locked inclusionists and deletionists into a room together and didn't let them out until they compromised, they might agree upon something like that.
You know, what this is just sort of struck me. Inclusionism is like "manufacturing" and deletionism is like "quality assurance." And in the business world you rarely have the same people do both, because there is is often a conflict of interest.
That's an excellent metaphor. I hope you don't mind that I intend to spread it like mad.
It's a good essay. I think for a lot of people to swallow it (especially the inclusionists and deletionists themselves), there has to be an acknowledgment that these approaches can go "haywire" when they become more interested in "beating the other side" than finding a way to achieve their broader goal. "Quality control" can still be satisfied if the article is improved or merged to create a better article with less fluff, but sometimes they will insist on deletion because they are caught up in the battleground. "Manufacturing" can still be satisfied if some of the good content is preserved through a merge or by a mention in another article, but they might insist on keeping a separate article just because they are caught up in the battleground.
Right. We have to keep in mind that the point of manufacturing is to produce products that will sell and the point of QA is to ensure the quality said products, also so they will sell.
Yeah, it makes perfect sense to me. I just wouldn't be surprised to see an inclusionist or deletionist read that essay and start ranting about how the other side has become disruptive, and that this essay doesn't describe how they act at all. But this essay is more about how people should act (and in a lot of cases, how they do act), than how they act 100% of the time.
This is a really good point, Hans. But I think that's exactly what will help improve diversity of contributors. If we can get away from argumentative people -- regardless of what point they're trying to argue -- we might actually see more growth overall.
If you do a good job of pruning the weeds, you might see a bigger and more diverse garden in the long run.
I agree, of course. But I am afraid the current formulation would reinforce the English Wikipedia's ethos that competence is not required: Every editor must be valued and respected, regardless of competence, and striving for diversity means that the more eccentrically someone behaves the more valued they are. That's how it would be read, I am afraid.
we have to have a process of editor improvement, and coaching. value and respect and hug them, until they forget the first article monomania, and move on to better editing. (and yes punish some) do we need a process of warnings? but the punish first ask question later, is a problem hindering quality editor development.
I guess I'm not sure what you mean by competence. Are we talking about excluding editors who blow it on their first 10 edits?
I think the bigger threat are the editors who stick around for more than 100 edits simply because they're stubborn enough to push their POV, and find more clever ways to game the system.
I'm interested to hear more about your experience at the German Wikipedia. You make it sound very attractive compared to the problems I've seen at the English Wikipedia. But in both cases, the population growth has stabilized -- which is troubling.
Banning editors after their first 10 edits is actually relatively standard even on the English Wikipedia, if all of these have been destructive. I am talking about those who after more than 1000 edits have shown no ability or intent to work withing community norms: Reverting without discussion. Discussing, but only in the form of endlessly repeating a mantra and insulting everybody else. Personalisation of everything. Here is a concrete example of what I mean: en:wikipedia:User:Proofreader77/Two Wikipedia opinion sonnets linked by "civility". This was the user's response to one of many complaints that his eccentric communication style was disruptive. He is indefinitely banned now, after 15,000 edits and countless discussions about his fate. Surely it didn't take so long to understand that he wasn't suitable for the workplace. The problem is that some people think it doesn't matter so long as he is trying to contribue "in good faith". Of course this particular user just thought it was OK and in fact perfectly normal to use up a large part of people's time while they were trying to figure out what he meant. We can tolerate egocentricity and similar problems, but only if its negative effect are in a reasonable relation to the editor's constructive contributions.
Yeah, I find it frustrating that some people can be disruptive for 10,000+ edits, when we can usually get the idea after 1000. We ARE very lenient. I'm not sure how they get away with it. Maybe...
- You get away with it if you do more good than harm. (e.g.: if you've edited even a few articles)
- You get away with it if you have enough defenders to obstruct a consensus. (e.g.: if you've made a few friends)
- You get away with it if you're working in good faith. (e.g.: you show you're on some kind of crusade)
Maybe all of the above? Maybe one of the above?
I'm not sure how to combat this. I do think we're too lenient in some ways, and welcome volunteers who make WP a worse place for everyone. But I also think we need to be more welcoming overall.
Yes, I have also seen many very serious cases of scaring away promising new users. That's probably one of the most important things we must become less tolerant about.
what process would you use to deal with the persistently disruptive editor? what process to encourage new users, and encourage editors to encourage? (i kinda hate to devolving to process, but it's the language of rules for rules lovers; clearly an ethos is not persuasive for all)
We just make recommendations, we don't do the detailed implementation part which is left to each Wikipedia.
Inter-personals issues is one reason why many editors leave the project as mentioned in the Former Contributors Survey Results.
Personally i try to limit use of templates when communicating with a new editors and verbose more in prose in user talk pages.
- You may forget that each Wikipedia has its own specificities and while "exporting" concepts from one Wikipedia to another seems a good idea, utter cultural rejection can happen. I edit the English wiki, yet i find the French wiki more friendly albeit a bit too lead back. In addition, i find the lack of in-line citation of most Japanese wiki articles somewhat dazzling especially if the subject is a BLP. From what i read the German wiki seems too much sanitized. That's for wiki specificities and we can on.
- Experts have limited time for Wikipedia so while we should encourage more of their contributions, keeping the articles in line against vandalism & quality erosion fall in the lap of basic trooper editors who are have those pages watched.
- Competence alone won't spare you from sectarianism & cultural bias. What's matter is keeping and encouraging the editors who want to do it right, regardless their somewhat extreme divergence on what is the right thing to do. Clearly there are some appeals to have just one way do it right but that's ideological dogmatism.
- How much you care for an editor can only measured by the time spend writing prose to the editor not on the number of message templates you used. I'm completely against the welcome template which can be resumed in term of inter-editor relationship to edit user talk page, copy paste template, sign & save edit rinse and repeat with the next new editor.
I am speaking as an editor of the English Wikipedia (16,000 edits) who also has some limited experience with the German Wikipedia (700 edits) and found that it lacks one particular problem. And I am not proposing to take any norms from the German Wikipedia to the English one. But I would like to see the English Wikipedia move slowly in that direction. The project's content is maturing, and its contributors need to mature too. The gold rush is over. We no longer need editors who write a three-line article on "book" without any citations and move on to the next article. This type of editor has nothing constructive to do any more and is looking for different ways to keep busy – often obstructing the encyclopedia builders in their work.
You may have a point. But then, the English Wikipedia isn't getting any new editors at all. And we need new editors who are ready to expand stubs, and reference low quality articles.
Some promising new editors run away from the hordes of "editors" who wouldn't know how to contribute anything but are prepared to defend the encyclopedia against
- sockpuppets ("you are reading the policy pages that I have pointed you to and appear to understand them, so you can't be a new user"),
- POV pushers ("you are using arguments that I can't contradict"),
- original researchers ("it's original research to say something that a source doesn't say with precisely the same words . . . no, that's not better, that's a copyright violation"),
- fraudsters ("everybody can use an account named after a Nobel prize winner, stop claiming to be that person as if it gave your arguments additional weight"),
- users with a conflict of interest ("you are adding links to your highly informative free website with additional information, which is severe abuse because it's yours; go and edit a topic that you don't care about"), and
- openly disruptive users ("that the five owners of this article take turns to revert all your edits without comment doesn't give you the right to break the three-revert-rule, which you have never heard about; you should have used one of the many dispute resolution methods that nobody told you about").
Hans has this one right and solving it is going to be a difficult battle. If indeed we are really sincere about: Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment. we really need to come to grips with the issues of OR and Notability because I don't think we mean the Sum of all knowledge that is arbitrarly notable or knowledge that is not OR. Today our filters on what knowledge makes it into the projects and the mechanisms we enploy to enforce those filters are a signficant impediment to growing the population of contributors.--Mike Cline 16:24, 5 May 2010 (UTC)
Once again, I refuse to turn this into a battleground between quality and participation. If we get into that argument, nobody wins. Anyone who wants to make that tradeoff will ultimately lose both. We need to simultaneously improve quality and participation at the same time. It's possible, but it can only be seen by people who aren't entrenched in one camp or the other.
Time is the key word. How much time are you willing to devote at explaining the tropes to new editors instead of shelling them with message templates. How much time you are willing to spend collecting evidences of the PoV pushing, warlike attitude or vandal like behavior of an editor or even more an admin or an editor with +10K edits.
Globally we need to spend more in inter-personal relationship rather than editing however the long term gain is very worth it.
Why not set up some type of optional mentoring program. New users who opt in for this could have a specific person to answer their questions and respond personally if they make a mistake early on. Nothing too time consuming for either party, just a way for well intentioned new users to feel like they have a friend in case they get in trouble without meaning to. Make it optional so it doesn't activate on the very first edit, but rather whenever the user feels he/she really wants to become part of the community and is facing a barrier. Wickedjacob 02:27, 6 May 2010 (UTC)
I'm surprised no one has discussed anonymous editors. I think that 99% of all vandalism is from anonymous (IP) accounts, and on several articles I edit I am certain that several editors use single use account names/sockpuppets to argue their points. As an editor, I watch several articles daily that typically have no editor activity, but frequent vandal activity, and it wears an editor out. If you are going to increase quality of editing, these things need to be addressed. Wiki wants to be open to everyone, and I know that is why they allow the anonymous editing, but I think you encourage the same thing even if people have to create an account. Has anyone done any research to ratio good edits v bad by IP accounts? I guess its impossible, but we all know what I am talking about here.
You say "The gold rush is over. We no longer need editors who write a three-line article on "book" without any citations and move on to the next article. This type of editor has nothing constructive to do any more and is looking for different ways to keep busy – often obstructing the encyclopedia builders in their work."
I guess I'm a 49er. And I did create a stub or two, although I don't think I did the one on book. WojPob did that at 07:04, June 6, 2001. I didn't edit the article until March 4, 2002, the fifth edit. It was fun back then, but it's not like I stuck in that mode of editing. People grow and change with the work. There is no "that type of editor". And there is no separate class of skilled "encyclopedia builders" that I am not part of. The question is how we can encourage all editors to become more productive in terms of the current needs of the encyclopedia.
Part of the solution is to revert the problem and from the former editor survey i'm rather on the spot. Wikipedia should make more effort the put in front end areas where anyone can contribute in a meaningful way without having a big "Wiki-culture" to do so and the fear to see its edits reverted at sight.
Just as an additional note, from my own experience:
While the German Wikipedia has reduced stubs or extremely weak articles, it should be noted that it has a serious problem with page removal (a) in terms of procedure, it has become abused to display power to a degree that is almost absurd (b) in terms of content, it has led to the exclusion of a lot of pages that were deemed not relevant by wikipedians due to a lack of understanding for its area of knowledge.
By consequence, the German wikipedia has lost a lot of serious but casual contributors and many people are now scared to be treated like an idiot. The policy to review changes before they are shown to the public has further decreased motivation since it breaks up the direct editing loop and the joy of fixing errors. I know some editors who only use the English wikipedia now.
I also think that the civility guidelines are too lenient. We're here to work on an encyclopedia. Sometimes people will disagree in the course of that work, but that's no reason to treat people without basic respect. This occurs in multiple forms, but one that I see as serious is that experienced editors know where the "civility line" is, so they have adapted, learning to belittle, devalue, and disrespect fellow editors without overtly crossing that line. Such an editor will not say "You're an asshole," because they know the consequences, but that same editor knows full well that nobody will ban him for saying "Stop whining about your issue." Yet the basic respect isn't there. This demonstrates that basic respect is not a requirement at this point and time. I hope it will be in the future.
I don't think it's as easy as that. The bigger and more "complete" projects need to concentrate on quality rather than quantity, and for that we need experts. For many topics the pool of experts is very small, and if one of them comes to help us we should be able to use that help even when the expert is not particularly good at cooperative editing with Randy and his mates. A university professor who comes to Wikipedia to edit an article about their field cannot be expected to "cooperate" with a teenager who is trying to educate them on their field in a patronising tone. Many will not remain civil in such a situation, and it's not their fault, but it's our fault for exposing them to this in the first place. (Cooperation about presentation and accessibility is a different matter.)
Perhaps we could have an external peer review system. We might have a cooperation with certain academic institutions, and when an article in their field goes through something like featured article candidacy it is sent to them for review. This allows experts to contribute without editing Wikipedia directly, but it is also likely to increase the number of experts active in certain fields, creating a more expert-friendly environment.
But this isn't strategy any more, it's much more fine-grained, and I think the current version of the strategy page has taken these things in account.
I agree with most of what Hans Adler wrote. I have never seen any great divide between inclusionists and deletionists, no matter how popular this is among Wikipedia-watchers. Instead the great divide is between those with a prescriptive mindset and those with a descriptive mindset. Much of the infrastructure is aimed at encouraging the prescriptive mindset; all those Help-pages (proclaiming that anyone can edit, etc), emphasis on edit-counts, etc.
Nevertheless, putting an encyclopedia together requires a descriptive mindset. Wikipedia is not likely to make much more progress than it has already, not with the "facts, who care about facts? I am going to apply my favorite, and personal, rule!" attitude running rampant, and being aware of more than a single texbook on a topic being pretty much a shooting offensive. - Brya 07:38, 8 May 2010 (UTC)
And how do you intend to judge which university professor is "qualified" to review, for example, an article dealing with aspects of the "middle east conflict" ? Which academic institution should we rate as competent - an which one not? I fear that we are about to import the entire range of some hundered years of academic rivalry into the project.
From my experience as an arbitrator on the English Wikipedia, I must say that increased, and strict, enforcement of civility has diminishing returns especially as attention turns to subtle forms of disrespect. Essentially, your putting yourself up for a game of whack-o-mole as convincing the community that subtle insults are a serious matter is a losing proposition. The clever individual always has the advantage over a committee.
Yeah, I sometimes want stronger enforcement of civility, but then I worry it would just become a game of Wikilawyering and passive aggressive "did you see what he said? I believe that editors would construe that as disrespectful."
That said, there are some editors who manage to operate at the borderline of good behavior for years before they are eventually banned. There has to be something we can do to improve our behavioral standards.
I think that coming together to say "Hey, there is a problem here," is a good first step. Wikilawyering becomes possible when rules and guidelines are detailed. When they are vague, it is less possible. For example, if the civility guideline simply said "Be respectful of each other," and administrators gave a warning the first time and then a 24 hour ban the second, people would quickly realize that the best way to "play the game" was not to get near the boundary in the first place. While some would argue about the interpretation of "respect," all would quickly figure out that conservative definitions serve them better. Sure, we might lose a few editors, but I think we're losing more now from how loose the civility rules are. To be frank, I don't deserve to be treated with disrespect because of my opinions. I'm a volunteer and volunteers are generally treated well by the organizations they volunteer for (because those organizations want them to continue volunteering).
Further, nobody deserves to be treated with disrespect, even if they act badly. Administrators can (and should) be respectful even when applying bans, in the same way that a judge will still address a murderer as "Mister" when delivering a jail sentence. Basic respect should be suspended for no one.
If the civility rules were tightened, we'd of course have to have some training to make sure that warnings and bans were handed out properly, but I think that's do-able.
It's a huge change that you're asking for. I kind of wish we had done this right from the start. You're right that training would have to become a part of it. But we wouldn't just have to train admins. We'd have to train editors as well.
And even then, the biggest challenge is distinguishing between legitimate criticism and "disrespect". I mean, if you said "Randomran keeps re-adding information that is untrue and unverified", I shouldn't be able to say "Noraft should be banned for calling me a liar".
I think you're right about everything you've said. And I agree that it is a huge change, but I think it is one that we really need to make.
Regarding differentiating between criticism and disrespect, I think clear, nonspecific guidelines again save the day. In this case, establishing a guideline that editors should request things for themselves, not for others (i.e. it is okay to say "I feel I'm being disrespected and I'd like administrator intervention," but not "Ban Noraft for calling me a liar.")
In the same way that current rules (such as WP:Notability) give rise to typical/common outcomes in Articles for Deletion discussions, the new rules will also have common outcomes. For example, I would suspect that if we instituted the aforementioned guideline, a common outcome of requesting a ban on another user would be an administrator warning and referral to the guideline stating that calling for bans on others is not respectful.