Barriers to Quality at Wikipedia (and potentially other Wiki projects)

    I would function very well on the encyclopedia you envision, and in a selfish way I kind of hope you are persuasive.

    But there are two problems.

    The first is that a lot of these issues are gray. The obvious POV pushers and original researchers don't survive on Wikipedia. The most disruptive ones 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?

    The second is that policies in Wikipedia are descriptive, not prescriptive. *Anyone* can rewrite policy. It's not like they're etched in stone by the Gods, or even the founders. Policies change. 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? At what point do we ban them? ... how do we know that policy won't eventually change where it supports their position? Should they be invited back? Should we have banned them in the first place? Should we now crack down on the people who support the old policy? What if those people start pushing the old policy wherever they can, turning multiple articles into a battleground?

    In spite of all those practical challenges... I still feel like there is a difference between someone who is opinionated and someone who is disruptive. But I have a hard time figuring out where to draw that line. And so it's hard to start banning people on that basis.

    Randomran07:03, 6 December 2009

    @Randomran: in my experience, the difference is always in behaviour. The user that edits without paying attention to others creates problems, the user that discusses and listens first doesn't create problems. Weather they are opinionated or not isn't particularly important: the disruptive guys aren't always the opinionated guys. I believe that 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.

    Woodwalker09:12, 6 December 2009


    Test case: use my behavior on here as a new user. (yes I am handing out darts)

    I am opinionated.

    I have done original research on brand.

    I am vocal and I am also tenacious.

    I have offended at least one person on this task force.

    Am I disruptive?

    Note: the brand graphic I posted is based on years of reading/research and on other people's work as well but it is not cited because for the most part it is common knowledge in my field.

    What is different about me or my approach than users all of you would call disruptive?

    Bhneihouse16:31, 6 December 2009

    Honestly, I'm not sure.

    How offensive is it? Obviously "shut up!" or "you're an ass" is not civil behavior. But is it offensive that the new user saw something they thought was untrue and said "stop pushing lies on Wikipedia. I'm removing your lies." Is it offensive if the new user said adamantly "listen, I'm an expert on this, and you need to step aside"?

    And how original is the original research? If it's blatant, then that's a strike against you. But what if there are lots of people on the Wiki who think it's fair game? An admin comes down on you... and like many "true believers" do, they pour into the discussion and overwhelm the admin. They point out that the new user used a press release, or an advertisement, or a polished but self-published website. You point out that this is still original research, and they no it's not, and "ignore all rules" anyway.

    ... you're going to have a hard time dealing with anything but the most obvious vandalism. What makes "true believers" so disruptive is that they think it's enough that they wrote some grammatical sentences that are on topic, and there are plenty of people who will say that's fair game.

    Randomran19:48, 6 December 2009

    @Randomran: Agreed. Completely. And you said it much better than I could have.

    ~Philippe (WMF)14:31, 6 December 2009

    I am only going to address policies, I addressed users below.

    If policies derive from the brand, they never stray too far before people go "HEY! That's not consistent with the brand! (I.e. thats not how I should be treated, that's not how it should be done, etc.)

    Different than that, is that brands change over time. From time to time, a new brand statement may be in order. Having a brand doesnt mean it doesnt evolve. In fact, most brands DO evolve over time or they cease to be competitive -- in our world that wouldnt mean market share of dollars/Euros, etc. In our world that would mean a loss of contributors/users/editors/readers.

    The policies of a brand can also change over time to respond to an evolving brand.

    One of the nice things about Wikipedia is that it is not static. However, in order to have consistency and equity (a key thing for me) there has to be some consistency. Eventually, standing on quicksand wears out even the most intrepid traveler.

    Bhneihouse16:38, 6 December 2009