Change The Community

Change The Community

Extracted from WikiChangeProposal The claim

DonaldNoyes claims of WardsWiki, ItWorks. He further states that the solution is not to make major alterations in the way the wiki software works which would remove the openness, wikiness and other ineffable qualities that make WardsWiki special.

The solution

A solution which works using the same software involves recognition that if wikizens become concerned and active in those things which are of "common" interest, problems will be marginalized. Wiki problems derive from folks acting in selfish ways to further their own interest at the expense of the common interest.

An Objection

That WardsWiki history tends to show that it doesn't work (it is purely utopic to dream of bringing all members of a diverse community onto the same wave-length), that proclaiming a "common" interest would only help to repeat TragedyOfTheCommons, and that no practical solutions to current practical problems have been advanced.


The original discussion:

Wiki is more like London Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner than it is like Oxford University. (BritishCulturalAssumption... Interestingly this claim was made by an American who is familiar with both places) [For others who do not know: Speakers' Corner, Marble Arch, at a corner of London's Hyde Park, is one of the world's most famous locations symbolizing the democratic right of free speech.]

There are two different dynamics and levels of authority involved. For EruditeExclamations from the TenuredVoicesOfAAuthority, you go to one; to hear the voices directed toward common folk, you go to the other. HorsesForCourses.

From http://www.speakerscorner.net -

Others whose ghosts haunt this corner include William Morris, George Orwell, the Pankhursts, C.L.R. James, Benn Tillet, Marcus Garvey, and a star-spangled cast of millions more who shall remain unmentioned, excepting the immovable Lord Soper, who was still speaking till three weeks before he died at 95 years of age.

Speakers' Corner has had a more powerful influence than any "university" in the world, because here there are no entry requirements, no rules of intellectual formality and above all, no class restrictions. It is, as Leslie James the Hyde Park pamphleteer wrote, a fitting location to represent "the century of the common man".

There is, of course, a widespread belief that Speakers' Corner is some kind of "nuthouse", where "cranks" and tourists go. This idea is widespead, particularly amongst those who visit it only once. Lenin once related the story of a man who was wildly shaking, seated, his arms were swinging around; the observer thought it was a madman, but upon closer inspection he discovered it was a man sharpening a knife.

Of course, any comparison between WardsWiki and Speakers' Corner is void on so many grounds that it constitutes ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof to even raise it in this context. SpeakersCorner? creates no content, wiki is meant to create content through open collaboration and sharing of knowledge and experiences. The idea that we should subordinate this purpose to the purpose of being an outlet where everybody shout their 2c on equal footing is borderline idiotic and has nothing to do with WardsWiki as originally intended. If you are looking for such an agora, you can find it on SlashDot or UseNet. Like you said, HorsesForCourses, but wiki is not the course you think it is. The good thing is that WikiChangeProposal can also accommodate a SpeakersCorner? and let it compete against the more reliable edited content. -- CostinCozianu

SpeakersCorner? does not represent what change is necessary, but rather what happens when there are no entry barriers. There is shouting and subordination present within wiki. There is no referee, no expert, no adjudicator. Witness RecentChanges for the past 6 months and you will find much evidence to support and prove this. Content is created in both places and there is a sense in which it's remembered and a sense in which it's forgotten and erased. In wiki, it remains in words which may change; at SpeakersCorner?, the remains reside in the fleeting memory of those who take part. Metaphors are patterns which fit somewhat but not at all [in some points, but not in all points]. Comparisons are relative, not absolute. It may be said that "Borderline Idiocy" does exist within wiki, as you and others have pointed out several times in responses to that which is deemed so. Wiki is open. Wiki is accurate and inaccurate, Wiki is changing moment by moment, Wiki can be valuable and at the same time it can be worthless, ItDepends. Wiki is not and cannot become a place where correctness, stability, and scholarship reside if it allows those who do not exhibit such characteristics to participate. Wiki reflects its participants and it is such a place we now have where the inept, the expert, and merely curious mix it up. Let's hope that the collaboration you speak of occurs and that those who are expert will make the corrections necessary to make wiki UsefulUsableAndUsed?. -- DonaldNoyes Yes, and if you allow the expert and the inept to mix up you got what you've got now, and what you've gotten for the past year: crappy mediocrity that can only go further down because experts have a huge disincentive to waste their effort in the chemical dump. The "let's hope" part of yours is wishful thinking. The WikiChangeProposal would allow the "correctness stability and scholarship" (or in more modest term just a meritocracy) to happen on wiki by letting everybody participate but allowing both the readers and writers the freedom to choose whom they trust. What you have now is that the only meritocracy is the meritocracy of EditWar, of the obsessive repetition and of junk. WardsWiki as it stands now is broken and we all know it, just some people perpetuate their delusion that it is not.
"If you allow", does not mix well with openness. Mixing of the expert and the inept is called education. Experts do not waste their time in senseless edit wars and tramping around in the "chemical dump". They create "expert content". They post that which is accurate, correct and stable and maintain it in that condition. The inept learn from that and emulate it. When they fail to be accurate the experts lend a hand in correction. Correction in the form of this is what fits here or this is a better solution here, or it will work better if ... Experts who have expertise and wish to share it, can find in this wiki a host of those who will listen and learn. It will however be found that experts who with condescension and abruptness degrade, denounce and pronounce things as stupid, silly, or idiotic will not garner much awe and respect. It is the mix of the expert and the novice that is basic in the preservation of crafts, the teaching of skills, and the betterment of the whole society. If the experts want only to be sheltered in the ivory towers of peer recognition and review, without the sharing of such expertise in the plains outside those towers, eventually the experts will lose sight of the practicality of that learning in the common and mundane.

I do not see the wiki as broken; I do, however, see those who are doing things which will break parts of it. I have chosen not to participate in such destruction and failure. I will continue to "live in the delusion that I and others who mix it up with me are not breaking it". I will continue to "trust those who seem more willing to construct, promote, contribute and exhort, and be delusional that such people exist". I will continue to concentrate on actions and activities which will be constructive, helpful and which have "merit". I have been here a long time, and do not intend to leave or to give up now. I navigate this Wiki with a list of all of its pages, and intend to read as many as seem of interest to me.

Broken - no, Some torn sails, perhaps. But Ward and his Wiki have navigated through these waters before and the ship has remained afloat going on now for almost ten years. Not many Internet/Programming/Products/Languages/Schemas/etc. can claim such consistency and success. Wiki can Change, Wiki is Changing, Wiki is Change. I proposed long ago that it is a NobleExperiment and a PositiveDialogueCommunity. I still think it is.

-- DonaldNoyes

This nice theory of yours failed to verify in practice for more than a year already, and before it worked only partially and with limited results. You are delusional when you refuse to confront the reality that those nice people you theorize about cannot practically make any difference in a wiki where rogue behavior and aggressive mediocrity have the greatest reward. Keep you head in the sand, Donald, the situation is pretty rosy down there.

In addition:

Be that as it may, there are folks thinking that wiki should be only one way, and they are absolutist in their conviction that wiki "can never" and "will never" ... That's not a reason to think that the current WikiChangeProposal will be the end of wiki as they know it. Under the current proposal they can also have Wiki exactly the way they want it, except that others may enjoy the liberty not to engage in futile EditWars, FlameWars and so on, so forth. There will still be a RawMaterialWiki_ identical with the existing one. If they think the wiki purity is best and the community doesn't need elementary protection mechanisms, they certainly can make their "head in the sand" version of wiki better than any edited version. And if they think that futile fights against rogue behavior is a price worth paying for this elusive "purity", they will certainly enjoy that. I can assure them that the likes of RA will never disappoint them and will give them the pleasure of fighting for the RawMaterialWiki_.

After initially thinking no response was necessary, decided against that notion: -- DonaldNoyes

Here's your theory, quoted directly from you: Mixing of the expert and the inept is called education. Experts do not waste their time in senseless edit wars and tramping around in the "chemical dump". They create "expert content".. It is a theory because it does not reflect what happened or what happens, it reflects your idealized, rosy glasses picture of what is supposed to happen. In conflict with your theory, the reality of Wiki is that experts left wiki, the very few that remained are reluctant to contribute anything of substance or value, not even WikiGnomes are able to perform much of their good work any more, and the overall experience of Wiki has been a quagmire for the last year or so. It is burying the head in the sand the fact that you idealize a version of wiki that was proven inadequate in real life. And no, your ramblings have nothing to do with learning chess. Among the top quality a chess player needs to have is to adapt to changing situations and confront the reality. "Working with nice people" sounds good in theory, except few if any nice people have collaborated recently on wiki to produce ReallyValuableContent. You theorize about how it should be, the reality that these experts and nice people did not subscribe to your theoretical view of wiki, but voted with their feet.

Your theory is that "If I encounter aggression and opposition regarding a post, and someone deletes it, I restore it once", and that this represents a model of behaviour that if followed by others only milk and honey will flow all through wiki and every problem will be solved. The grunt reality is that if an expert's contribution is quagmired by the inept chaff of somebody like RA, then that person will have a better use of his/her time than to waste it on a forum where she is hassled by idiots. No matter how much you want to handwave about openness and wiki ideals the results speak for themselves: the ration of signal to noise have evolved towards negative records, resulting in a net loss to wiki.

That's the reality of it, because that's how it happened and it continues to happen. Your head in the sand vision of how wiki should be does not address any such problems other than repeating wishful thoughts of wiki glory that have no real correspondent in reality. I got news for you: things change, things can evolve towards different, better, worse). Only the chronically unadapted get stuck in the same place, dreaming of the ever elusive GoldenAge? that has long disappeared and may never really have existed in the first place. -- CostinCozianu

Interesting how you have taken: And form the following conclusion: You have failed to consider that a full two-thirds of my comment (in italics) is about adaptation in conflict, improvement and learning. It is all about responding by making changes. (Isn't that how you play chess?) (By nice people, I mean not those who agree with you or are sympathetic or supportive, I mean those who play by the rules.)

I haven't failed to consider any of that. The rules are deeply flawed in the current situation, and it is time to consider changing the rules. The fact that you consider changing anything but the rules, which is what is needed to attain the goals of this community allows me to derive my conclusions. If you are willing to make changes in all the wrong places or in places where it doesn't matter, but rule out changes where they can make a difference, then you're not really willing to make changes. Nobody in the world will convince me that say experts need to change their convictions or their way of presentation to make it appealing to idiots, nor do good people need to make changes in order to make RA and the likes "happy" (for some value of happy). In real life it doesn't work that way. In real life there are environments that shield the experts from having to waste their energy defending against idiots (i.e. peer reviewed environments like ), or you get environments like Wiki where in the end experts just leave, because the environment is counter-productive. Current WikiChangeProposal tries to advance an environment where experts and non-experts can interact, and even experts with different views can interact more easily, but there will always be a plausible and workable recourse against rogue behavior, ignorance, stupidity, and there will never be a need for an EditWar, nor will there be any need for interminable ThreadMode arguments.

There is no workable recourse against such things in the current version of wiki. And this has been proven time and again and is so bloody obvious to so many people that only sticking your head in the sand can make you claim otherwise. (Just ask yourself why in the world did Ward feel the need to ask for CrazyThingThatMightSaveWiki??)

In the end, I guess I'll have to take my own prescribed medicine, and I'll say that you either get it or you don't. Trying to explain it any more than I did is counterproductive waste for both of us and for this page. -- Costin
It is true that: The grunt reality is that if an expert's contribution is quagmired by the inept chaff of somebody ..., then that person will have a better use of his/her time than to waste it on a forum where she is hassled ...

Consider this: There are some very interesting thing happening on this thing we call the internet, and that some of the experts are getting involved in those things instead of being here. Their going does not mean that their doings have gone with them. They remain untouched by RecentChanges, untouched by those who would purify the wiki by making it in an image "they" consider proper.

Therefore: I can be found reading AllPages (trying to read from a list a selection of from 20 to 100) per day. It is when I am doing this that I can be found CollectingWikiGems, making minor edits and corrections, an occasional deletion, restoring a page defaced by a WikiSpammer?, Adding an appropriate category classification, putting in my 2cents worth, an occasional laugh, and sometimes following a link to a place I've never been. Experts, at least those I call experts, are doing some of the same things, but because they are experts, what they do receives little notice, because it is so right and it follows the rules.

I do not consider this exchange a waste of time, for it has extracted something from both of us which until now had not been said quite in the way it has been.

I am for change, a change which is fundamental and coherent, harmonious with Ward's original ideas of openness, etc. But the problem that exists, exists because people do not act in the interests of the whole. They act in ways they see and agree unto themselves. It is behavior which needs to be changed, not procedures.

As long as people bring into this wiki in your page, their page, someone else's page a boxing ring, and step in it, challenging all comers, and as long as there exists those who will be distracted by the lights and the cheering mobs and as long as there are those who will strap on the gloves and enter the ring, there will be knock-downs and drag-outs.

Of my strategy, theory, practice or what ever you may call it, I can only say that ItWorks. We have had this little exchange, you have responded, I then also responded, back and forth, with little ideas and thoughts not formerly expressed being made, with a conclusion, and an agreement that things need to change, I maintain it is the behavior in the response and exchange that needs changing you seem to want to change it as well but put the responsibility on the "mechanics and the architecture".
Thanks for moving this to its own page, I was thinking of doing as well. Thanks for the compliment, I do have a vivid imagination, and also have high expectations and a spirit of discovery. -- DonaldNoyes

I also think that changing the software is in the province of the provider of the medium. It seems in your description of the problem that the defect is not in the way the "software works", but in the way some of its "users work".

It is my contention that the actions of a few do not typify the action of the majority.

In every organization and effort involving human interaction there will exist those who fail to value cooperation and subordination of self in a common good. Such is life. It is a common misconception that making rules and regulations will fix that. It is my conception that discipline that works is self-imposed. Communities work because there exist commonalities that are embraced by those involved in its actions, which are derived from common values. Communities are disrupted when members allow those who would try to impose disharmonious values and actions to garner the attention and disapproval of those who have ensured that ItWorks. In giving attention and disapproval, the fabric of commonality is disrupted. When and if such disruption becomes big enough and involves a significant number of the active community, it is only natural for some to blame the system. Cries begin to be made, ItDoesntWork, what do we need to do to make it work.

It becomes an exercise in changing a working system because of those whom we recognize and empower by allowing them to successfully employ techniques which deflect the intentions and interests of a working community.

It has been a working community for nearly ten years. Stick around and you will see it remain a working community for ten more. This is because it is a community based on simplicity and the belief that community can exist.

What does the community do about the people and things that cause disruption?

Here are a few pages that come to mind, I'll add more as time goes by.

Speaking and Listening Courtesy WikiContent? WikiPhilosophy Yes, you can handwave all you want about what community can do, but whatever the community can do, and whatever the community actually does or did in the past, the results speak for themselves. And I'm not clear if you are satisfied with the results or if you want to see the half-full glass, but a lot of people beg to have a different assessment and are very dissatisfied with the past and the current state of affairs. You are welcome to apply your nice theories about WhyWikiWorks as long as you like, but because results will continue to be poor, your claims will not be credible but will be classified as utopic idealism. Not such a bad thing to be called "Utopian Idealist", don't you think?

Some called "Utopian Idealists" (illustrating various dogmas and schemas with attendant strengths and weaknesses): Some say of wiki

It is very bad. It is very good It is useful It is useless ItDepends
Now that you talk about principles, how about realizing that adjusting a paragraph thing that I responded to, to the point where the response is distorted 100%, is not exactly principled. FYI, nobody but yourself called you "idealist" I called you utopian idealist and that's the kind of thing that is very bad for the reasons enumerated above and many others.

When you can no longer have a honest conversation even with DonaldNoyes you know it's time for CrazyThingsThatMightSaveWiki. You are a splendid practical example of why your "principles" and theories are nothing but a utopia. QED

Illustration of the value/principle of collective effort: Sure, collective effort, peace and love and all that jazz, they're all nice. But beyond nice words you have to confront reality. You can have efforts that are wasted in vain, and you can have smart efforts. One small adjustment may have orders of magnitude greater effects. That we can achieve collectively great things has nothing to do with our discussion. The question is if we proceed to do it in a dumb way (that is without taking into account whether out theories measure up to what really happened), or we can do it smartly including SharpenTheSaw.

I shall characterize your position as a gratuitously utopic idealism, stuck in the admiration of the blunt saw, that refuses to even contemplate the idea of sharpening the saw for fear of losing the ineffable experience of the blunt saw. The bottom line becomes not cutting the wood, but the very experience of using the blunt saw. Maybe, in your parable, one of those guys could have come up with a smarter solution rather than hanging desperately to the ropes, so that's as far as argument by analogy goes. Thus you militate to hold a community hostage to one particular utopia. No matter how blunt the saw, the community can always put more effort into using the beautifully blunt saw.

Let me present this paradox to you: Why not practice what you preach, Donald, and subordinate your private and passionate stuckness to your private WikiTopia?, to the common goal of building a better and more effective community? How can you claim that others act egocentrically and spoil wiki by following their own interest, when you yourself cannot be sure that you do not act just the same? This paradox should make it clear to you that there's no such thing as a communal mindset that can be used as an etalon [Is there no better word?] to make judgement values on individual actions and behaviors. Your "communal" attitude is nothing but a peculiar version of individualism, proclaiming that one's Utopia should be considered as the communal utopia.

In contrast to ChangeTheCommunity proposal, WikiChangeProposal tries to just let the individual be, without requiring everyone to be subordinated to any "communal" goals, principles or even worse, value judgements as a precondition to have a satisfactory wiki. Thus a true sense of community (and possibly several interacting communities) can emerge when the freedom of individual agents is maximized. -- CostinCozianu

"true sense of community", I like that, If the WikiChangeProposal can bring that about while letting the individual be, not requiring subordination to ..goals, ..principle, or value judgements, while employing maximized freedom. Sounds practical, realistic and doable. May it be so. Does sound a little like the emergence of a different (dare we say change of a) community (or communities).
Can you swim in the same river twice, Donald? If your answer is yes, in spite of the water never being the same in the river, you'll be part of the same community even as the community evolves. If your answer is no, much less you'll be able to participate in the same community no matter what.

The river, the water, and the swimmer are different at different times. You can swim in the river, yes. You can swim in the river twice, yes. The river is changing, yes. The swimmer is changing, yes. Yes four times, No, zero times.

You can be in a community without taking part in the "sense of the community". What we do in that community changes it by either reinforcing that "sense", or by destroying that "sense".

And what would make you presume that by evolving the rules the sense of community would be destroyed rather than reinforced? On the contrary, by making life in community easier for its members, one would presume the attachment to the community would not be diminished. Practical reality check: shall I enumerate tons of ReallyValuableContent creators that left the WikiCommunity in frustration with the current circumstances? Could it be that the current set of rules help destroy the sense of community by being hopelessly inadequate? Never mind that, Donald, let no facts interfere with your firmly held conviction. We can beat this dead horse to the end, as long as you don't want to account for reality this conversation is impossible.

Think about what you just said. The horse is dead, and you are still found putting things in the saddle bags: i.e. "And what would make you presume that by evolving the rules the sense of community would be destroyed rather than reinforced?"

The two are not symmetrical and it's trivial to make the difference, however I'll spell it out for you. Once something does not work, or does not work quite well, one is supposed to ask the what (did not work), why (it did not work) and the how (can we improve things for the future) and do some CriticalThinking about it. It follows that evolving the rules to address these things according to some rationale, while it cannot offer any absolute guarantees, it offers better prospects than being stuck in the same muddy place. That's how smart people react and adapt. That was supposed to have been something obvious to the guy who wrote SuccessOrientedApproach: if you have a failure, you adapt and you change by addressing the causes of failure. Practice what you preach, Donald.

One must recognize to what degree one can address correction of that which is not within one's powers of correction. One can, however, address some of the brokenness with selective and considered use of RecentChanges. Such as in the construction of such pages as RelevantChanges (which perhaps would be more correctly labeled CategorizedChanges). It is a matter of using, and not abusing the available vehicle which has been provided for us. It is users realizing and acting as though they are members of a cooperative and collaborative community that will make Wiki continue to Work.

From above: and also: Dead horses are buried, not beaten. -- DonaldNoyes
From TheCultOfTheAmateur

That doesn't mean that amateurs are eliminating professionals; it just means that a new ecological niche is opening up, where both can coexist. Is that reason for reporting with alarm, or is it no different than the coexistence of amateur and professional sports?

WikiWikiWeb and Wikipedia and the like have their faults, but also great strengths: note the irony that we are even discussing the issue here, as amateurs.

Do you mean we are amateur software developers? I'd guess most of us are professionals.

No, not all amateur or professional, just some.

[Which is of course, Wiki's greatest strength, that great diversity.]

...and its greatest weakness.


See UtopiaNow TheCultOfTheAmateur SmallestFederatedWiki
CategoryCommunity CategoryWikiProgress CategoryProblem

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