I am most certainly going to botch how I say this, as I have now typed this five times in 24 hours and still can’t seem to say it right but here goes.

Ok. The information is there on Wikipedia. But

  1. I should have been told up front where all of this was and
  2. I shouldn't be expected to go looking for the information.

I am making a point of this to illustrate how absurd some of Wikipedia's assumptions are.

Task Force assumption: someone new to the Wikipedia taskforce will go looking for the information they (may not even know they) need.

Parallel assumption: someone new to Wikipedia will figure it all out on their own.

Task Force assumption: people will want to contribute to making Wikipedia better so they will put up with all sorts of behaviors, bad tools, etc.

Parallel assumption: people want to contribute to Wikipedia so they will tolerate a lot.

In the real world, people expect to have as complete information as possible to work from, made easily available, especially when they are not paid for their time. Also, people expect appropriate tools unless they are working for a nonprofit who tells them up front "hey, we don’t have money for good tools." In either case, this should all be disclosed up front so people can make decisions based on as complete information as possible. Eg, if I know I am volunteering under less than perfect conditions than I might choose to not volunteer because the conditions may make the contributing too difficult or more time consuming.

One thing most of you do not know is that I am disabled. I have asked for accommodations for my disabilities. I asked for an alternative for LT because one of my disabilities makes working in this sort of format very difficult. It is not that I cannot use it; it is that it takes me several times longer to cope with information in certain types of formats because of the disability. So something that might take someone with the same intelligence as me an hour will take me several hours. When volunteering especially, I want to maximize my results with minimum time, because I have other obligations. My request for accommodations was met with a statement that other people have difficulties with this environment with a reference that it probably wasn’t my disability. However, an environment that other intelligent people find difficult with is even worse with my disability.

The point can be made that Wikipedia refused to provide accommodations for a substantiated disability. In point of fact, under Federal law, I don’t even have to substantiate a disability, all I have to do is identify that I have a disability and make a request for an accommodation. It is really bad politics to choose someone to facilitate a task force to change what is wrong with Wikipedia and then not provide an accommodation for a disability.

Ok, again, I brought this up to make a point. If Wikipedia cannot follow the mandate of a law regarding accommodations, which is a gross point, then how will Wikipedia respond to finer points such as how a newbie needs to be treated in order to maximize the quality of their user experience and to break the barriers to their participation and contribution? This is a MINDSET, a paradigm that many of you live in because it has been with you so long you cease to even see it as an assumption that can be un-made.

There is a distinct lack of equity going on and many Wikipedians, Task Force included, may not even understand that it is happening. If there are deep assumptions that are not recognized, this may lead to truly unacceptable behaviors being accepted, i.e. new members searching for information so they can volunteer. That scenario probably shouldn’t be acceptable.

I received an email today that made me realize that even the people leading this project are subject to the same deep assumptions. In answer to the question about the scope of our quality inquiry I received the following comment. “The mandate specifies a focus on Wikipedia quality. What else would that be other than content?” This speaks of assumptions being made that close off the process of intelligent inquiry. There is an assumption that there is nothing beyond this point or nothing else of value here to address from a quality standpoint. I didn’t think that closing off the inquiry was something that we did at Wikipedia. But it seems that this entire task force process is based on the same assumptions that put Wikipedia in a disadvantageous situation in the first place.

So my question is: is there any way to engage in this process with a clean slate, without basing the Task Forces on the damaging assumptions that are already holding Wikipedia back? Is there a way to effectively include people who are new to Wikipedia, who don’t know where to find information, to prepare them, give them information, guide them (while respecting their acumen), and without them feeling like they are being put through torture to get something simple done? Is there an entirely new way to work, especially on this task force, that leaves behind old unworkable assumptions, and that accommodates not only disabilities but differing working styles so each team member is able to be as effective as they are capable of being?

Bhneihouse06:50, 4 December 2009

I'm sorry but I agree with Bhneihouse. This task force cannot restrict itself or close off the process of inquiry by simply leaving out some aspects of quality in its considerations. My first step in this process was to define what quality is in the broadest sense. I found out that aspects which define quality are separable but related. I don't object to focussing on aspects of content, but to ignore everything else seems impossible.

Woodwalker11:09, 4 December 2009