How does wiki work? We're not talking about low-level technical details here. Whoever gets to this page is surely acquainted with them. We're concerned with how order
is created. So let's examine the two most important technical facts of the wiki:
- It is always easier to undo someone else's work than it was for them to do it in the first place. This goes for useful content, but it also goes for flame wars, trolls, insults, vandalism, and even page deletes (so long as someone took the precaution of backing it up).
- RecentChanges exists and brings everyone's attention on any proposed change to the wiki, no matter how minor.
What are the consequences of these facts?
- Wiki content can only exist by consensus.
- RC ruthlessly forces consensus.
So we see that the essential wiki nature is its being a giant consensus-making machine. What are the consequences of this?
Let's disillusion ourselves here. Consensus has nothing to do with politeness, freedom or anything like that. The idea is so blatantly stupid as to be reprehensible. Wiki is not free just because it works by consensus. Far from it, Wiki is lacking in every legitimate freedom one can imagine, be it intellectual, economic, political or even psychological! (See WikiAsAnarchy?
Rather, wiki works as a clique. On this particular wiki, the clique is extremely amorphous and diffuse (WikiPedia
has numerous sharply differentiated cliques), but it is there. This clique determines everything from what kind of content will stay up, to what kinds of behaviour is permitted, what punishments and tortures one will suffer, and of course, who belongs in the clique.
So what is the wiki Consensus?
It can only be found spread across dozens of pages, not least in WikiSocialNorms
. Not all of the rules are written down. For example, it is an unwritten rule that any violation of good behaviour is punished less severely if the content it occurred in relates directly to programming.
What are the consequences of violating the wiki Consensus?
When a person new to Wiki consistently contravenes those rules, they gradually invoke the general disapproval of those who were here before them. The manifestations of this disapproval cause some grief in both the object of the disapproval, and in the disapprovers as well, however, since the object is "ganged up on" they generally get the worst of it. One of two things then (eventually) has happened (and note that this is historical observation only): Either the new person discovers what the rules are and mostly abides by them, in which case the disapproval gradually goes away as the new person becomes absorbed into being "part of the community", or the new person continues to fight, which escalates the disapproval (sometimes dramatically) until the person in question gives up (either from despair or from simple boredom or a combination of these) and moves on. It's kind of a TaiChi
thing; the harder the push, the stronger the response. The more you care, the more you can get hurt. I'm not sure if there is a third possibility, but if there is, I haven't seen it yet. -- RK mostly
- Ward won't intervene
- Wiki strenuously resists sudden large-scale change, but can (and is) capable of gradual "course correction". Despite the appearance of resistance to change, the Wiki does change, but usually in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary way
- Since they've all been through it themselves, the people already here are an established system and (mostly) get along with each other, or at least are polite with each other
- People are generally tolerant of "newbie mistakes"; new people are generally welcomed and brought "up to speed" with a (mostly) minimization of pain along the way. Once they see how it works, a new person either decides they like it and stay, or that it's not to their taste, and they leave. Either choice is perfectly fine.
- Despite possible appearances to the contrary, the system by which Wiki governs itself has (again historically) proven to be generally stable, and allows interesting and useful contributions to in fact get made from time to time. :)
How do you challenge the Wiki Consensus?
There is no community here. They're a bunch of people, of individuals who do their thing. There is no solidarity, no group cohesion, no collective will. Everything is lost and there are a bunch of naive people marvelling at how things work so well!
I beg to differ. Since coming here some years ago I have found a very strong sense of community. When talking about ideas, opinions, difficulties and triumphs there is support, encouragement, assistance and good wishes. When going against the WikiSocialNorms there is admonishment and advice. Your experiences may be otherwise, but my experiences here are positive. Of course, I am a programmer, and that was the original target audience. People who try to make the wiki something else may find it a less welcoming environment.
Perhaps Wiki strength is its erasability.
Bingo. -- TimLesher
Anarchy is not an EvolutionarilyStableStrategy. Whenever people form groups they form power hierarchies. Billions of years of evolution have wired us to do that. Any group that avoids power hierarchies is vulnerable to exploitation by opportunistic individuals. This wiki is no different. The mechanics of it give power to the most stubborn and attentive. -- EricHodges
We are fortunate that the most stubborn and attentive are generally the ones that also care the most about Wiki. The general rule to extract is then: A group should select or create power hierarchies that are attractive to individuals who strongly share the group's basic values.
- Set up your own wiki and try something different. Ward will probably even SisterSite you if you ask nice. Nothing forces you to stay here and put up with this - make a better place and we'll all follow you there.
- Lots of insults persist, and get restored. Lots of non-insulting (yet OnTopic, at least for the page in question) content is deleted because others disagree with it and for on other reason. Occasionally, DeletionWar?s persist, and only end when one party or the other decides he/she has better things to do.
- Wait 3 months and restore the content via RecentEdits. Surreptitiously cross-link it with stable content via RecentEdits. Wait another week and then make it visible on RecentChanges. If it doesn't stay up then, that'll be a first.
See also WhatWikiWorksFor