The tendency for discussion of many topics on WikiWiki to break down into opposing positions on either "side" of an issue.
Why? Some possible contributing factors:
Human nature -- WikiWiki is just reflecting our emotional, argumentative tendencies
Vocal minority vs. silent majority -- People with extreme positions, who are emotionally invested in a position, or who are just generally opinioned and vocal, tend to contribute more often and more forcefully than people who have more balanced opinions and views.
The WikiWiki paradigm itself -- It is very easy to create and name a Wiki page, and there is some subtle (or not-so-subtle) pressure to boil one's concept or viewpoint down to a short, simple, singular phrase. It is much harder to conceive Wiki pages that are more carefully worded, to present concepts that only apply some of the time or in certain cases, or that describe tendencies or possibilities or contributing factors. Unfortunately, this often leads to skeptics questioning the validity of a sweeping generalization, giving counterexamples, etc. More and more people pile on and add their viewpoint; sometimes a consensus is forged, but sometimes positions are just hardened. Even when a consensus is possible, and even if that consensus position gets its own page, the old, polarized pages often remain, and some sniping continues.
People who are intellectually too lazy or incapable of resolving finer details of non-yes-or-no issues
Ask a question instead of making a statement; this invites discussion and shades of grey.
If and when some consensus is reached, create a new page with a more inclusive, general, and neutral name, and refactor the useful discussion from both positions' pages to it. Then remove the rest and leave nothing on the position pages except a link to the consensus page. (See also WikiRefactoring.)
Being my own DevilsAdvocate: obviously on some (perhaps many) topics, people will have honest differences of opinion, and will have to AgreeToDisagree. In these cases it doesn't make sense to come up with a "forced" consensus page. But even then, perhaps there would be benefit to refactoring: have a neutrally-named page for the overall issue, and then reference pages for each of the positions. Examples: FooIssues?, ArgumentsInFavorOfFoo?, ArgumentsAgainstFoo?. (somebody help me come up with better examples/phrasing)
Exactly. And I often find that pages in ThreadMode are much more enlightening than DocumentMode because there is a lot more insight in the arguments being made pro and contra than in (a sometimes forced) consensus. In the same time, having the pro and contra arguments side by side puts them in context, while refactoring them out in separate pages makes them lose some value. Also reaching a premature consensus inhibits people to come later and challenge that consensus.I'd say that WikiPolarization is not necessarily a bad thing (as long as we don't blow it out of proportions). And I find consensus much less valuable than diversity of opinions and alternate point of views. As a matter of fact I very much dislike consensus, given the fact that so little is known with certainty about the topics we discuss on wiki that any consensus seems to be premature and dated. When I raise an issue and I'm contradicted (even violently) I think "this is so much better". AgreeToDisagree is a failure. We should rather agree that we have different, equally valid and valuable points of view and there's no point in forcing one's view upon the other (therefore we can't agree and we can't disagree either). We can't "AgreeToDisagree" on, let's say, FunctionalVsProceduralVsObjectOrientedProgramming, there's no point in that, both sides have an equally valid and valuable perspective. But there are also controversies where there can't be distinct equally valid perspective because it's just a logical impossibility (for example me and AlistairCockburn on "LiskovWingSubtyping is mathematically unsound": it has to be either sound or unsound). So when we "AgreeToDisagree", we actually mean we failed to communicate. Most of the time this translates to: "I've had enough of this discussion, if you can't see my point, I can't explain it any better to you." -- CostinCozianu
I don't understand Costin's differentiation. I can recognize that someone else has a viewpoint that's as valid as mine and still disagree with that viewpoint. Besides, in most situations I've encountered, the viewpoints aren't necessarily equally valid. There are many viewpoints that are as valid as others, but how many are exactly equally valid? -- BrentNewhall
See LanguagePissingMatch, SplitByTopicNotByOpinion, EvilIsEvil