January 29, 2007

Wikipedia - Debate with me, Bureaucratic system based on China, Secret police

My screen runneth over with Wikipedia punditry.

Nick Carr extracts a debate on Wikipedia between Paul Montgomery and me:

Rough Type's users have been generating some particularly good content of late, so I thought I'd be a good Web 2.0 plantation owner and harvest it for my own (meager) gain. In the comment thread to my recent post on the black hole of Wikipedia, Paul Montgomery and Seth Finkelstein have been going at it like a couple of fairly well-mannered cats in a bag about Wikipedia, white guyism, and the quantum universe. Their exchange, which began with Montgomery's broadside against the poor, defenseless plantation owner, follows.

Chris Edwards - Bureaucracies aren't made, they just kind of appear

One thing struck me about Microsoft's wrangling with Wikipedia over the entry on its XML file formats. The procedure by which people try to change entries that involve them is surprisingly close to that used by traditional publishers, whether of newspapers or encyclopedias. That is, it would be if the publisher had a bureaucratic system based on China's. ...

[snip] ... if you want something about you or something you are directly involved with corrected on Wikipedia - which anybody can edit as long as they're not somebody - you complain on the talk page and an editor will do something about it. Or they tell you to go away. However, it's all a bit like dealing with local bureaucrats in rural China - each one does it differently, and attitudes can change dramatically in the space of days, although they will refer to the same rule book and come back with some obscure answer like: "WP:FOYC". ...

[But there's no "WP:FOYC". WP:MAO[ism]? WP:BEG? WP:PRAY? WP:@#$%!?]

Kathry Cramer explaining "Truth is not the point. The point is control."

My personal take is that the Microsoft controversey, in which Microsoft attempted to engage Jeliffe to corrrect errors in Wikipedia on their behalf, reflects more on problems with Wikipedia than with Microsoft; Wales's own attitudes promote the kind of bureaucratic paranoia and suspicion of expertise I experienced.

In Wales's utopia, all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. The elite of the WIkipedia editors, entrusted with special powers by Wales et al. act as a form of secret police -- or if that seems too harsh a metphor, anti-bodies in the midst of a raging autoimmune disease -- and, of course, the fighting is so vicious because the stakes are so low.

And for the opposite view, Philipp Lenssen interviews Wikimedia Germany board member Mathias Schindler, note:

... activist Seth Finkelstein called it "a poorly-run bureaucracy where there's not a lot of accountability" - so I wanted to get an actual & factual inside view.

[And the gist of my response is that Wikipedia insiders are not the place for it (to use Wikipedia jargon, they're non-neutral with a conflict of interest). Every organization has good people, but the problem is whether the system gives too much power to petty low-level administrators]

Note, from the standpoint of keeping Wikipedia running, power-tripping is a feature, not a bug. It's part of the draw, that YOU-YES-YOU, if you work hard enough for free, can be rewarded by the "authority" which comes from being able speak the secret spell of WP:WHAT_I_SAY_GOES, to those who would otherwise have social deference ("experts").

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on January 29, 2007 11:58 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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WP:FOYC - Aah yes. I wondered whether to use a real one or make one up - I made it up. Think of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Derek & Clive telling someone to go away.

Posted by: Chris Edwards at January 30, 2007 11:42 AM

But you missed a chance for a joke in the made-up code :-) (unless "FOYC" is something I didn't recognize).

I just realized what it should be! WP:FOAD!

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 30, 2007 02:17 PM