Difference between revisions of "Charter/General"

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:: I will most probably be welcomed by 99.97% of people here. But i think you should make it more clear that this is intended for Wikipedians, i've spent too much time figuring out why this is here just now. I think you are doing a great thing trying to improve on Wikipedia (even though i now hate that place). [[User:Beta M|Beta M]] 16:20, 26 December 2007 (UTC)
:: I will most probably be welcomed by 99.97% of people here. But i think you should make it more clear that this is intended for Wikipedians, i've spent too much time figuring out why this is here just now. I think you are doing a great thing trying to improve on Wikipedia (even though i now hate that place). [[User:Beta M|Beta M]] 16:20, 26 December 2007 (UTC)
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Revision as of 03:34, 19 November 2010

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Wiki vs mailing list

Why not just post to the wikipedia-l or foundation-l mailing list with your proposals? ( / 21:48, 14 Apr 2005)

Please login and sign with tildes; you wouldn't be here if you weren't an experienced Wikipedian, so I don't think I need to tell you why. In a face caucus, people do not normally identify themselves; they just walk up and join in, or stand around with their hands in their pockets waiting to hear something interesting. But in wikispace, unless you provide a handle, you not only have no name -- you have no face. [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 15:53, 15 Apr 2005 (CDT)

At first, I did create a mailing list for caucus; but that model is insufficiently open. A mailing list has an owner, with extraordinary power over the list. Also, each text is passed once only to all members, then forgotten -- texts cannot be edited.

I'm not "the boss" here; think of me as the guy who walked into the room first, turned on the lights, and set out the chairs. I have no control over the discussion.

The wiki model is not only far superior in general but I think it is clearly superior for the purpose of discussing Wikipedia-related issues. Using a wiki is like having a whiteboard in the room. [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 16:14, 15 Apr 2005 (CDT)


I'm not sure what you mean by my proposals. I have ideas, true, but this caucus is not here to push them. I have made several commonsense assertions; question them if you like:

1. The Wikipedian Community is in a state of crisis.

2. The community at large has reacted to this crisis with multiple calls for a general Convention. Given the technical nature of wikispace, the community is thus already in convention.

3. Draft charters are visible on many pages of Wikipediaspace.

4. The size of the general membership is so great that political models appropriate to large groups apply.

5. Political business is not transacted on the open floor of a convention. Viable proposals only come out of caucus -- or are railroaded through by a single powerful faction.

By the way, this is not the only caucus! Other Wikipedians are caucusing right now. I don't know where, and I don't know who -- but I guarantee there are many rooms in cyberspace in which the topic of a Charter or Constitution for the Wikipedian Community is in the air.

Much worse, established factions are planning to advance their positions without listening to any opposition. I would like to see something of strength arise to oppose the One-Thing People. [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 16:14, 15 Apr 2005 (CDT)

Unless the established factions are the developers or the Wikimedia Board themselves (that is, the people who really can pull the strings with no effective opposition), there's nothing to worry about. And nobody's obliged to listen to anyone else. I could draft a kooky proposal right now and "advance" it. I could even put it up for a vote. Of course, it would be shot down and buried in the blink of an eye, but that's another matter.

Statements like these smack of belief in a cabal, or at least in a collection of respected, well-meaning, misguided individuals suffering from groupthink. I don't doubt those exist, but I question the need to oppose them with "something of strength" in the form of yet another collection of individuals working in relative isolation from the community. Mind you, I'm not questioning that such a group could be more productive than everyone and their mother pouring over a proposal on Wikipedia—but let's keep in mind that the goal is not to oppose the shadowy bands of One-Thing promoters, whatever else our goal might be. Otherwise allegations of isolating yourself to avoid opposition are too easy to mount for it not to look hypocritical—and of course we would be "open" and working to "consensus" while the others would not...

Call me Inertia—I'm in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" camp. I'm also in the "Wikipedia is not an experiment in politics" camp, so if you're getting a little too enthusiastic about politics, be prepared to get some annoying "how is this building an encyclopedia" remarks. In that sense, I think highly of Kim's simplified ruleset (I prefer linking to the original)—not as a charter, but simply as a rewording and re-highlighting of things that are already there. That's how wikis operate: first it's simple, then confusion and cruft proliferate, then this is coalesced into something simpler (going by de facto rather than de iure), then the whole thing starts over again. A charter sounds like something that would remain immutable, or mostly immutable. Other than "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia", "NPOV" and "factual accuracy", I can't imagine what else should be.

Please note that I'm not attacking you; I'm not even particularly attacking your statements. I'm not going to stand at the sidelines and boo everything because I don't see the point; that's obstruction of the most annoying kind. If you can't convince me a charter is necessary and I can't convince you it's not necessary, we'll politely part ways.

Wikipedia is the largest wiki ever. It's arguably also the most successful, if we take "success" at "meeting your goals". Nobody's arguing that Wikipedia is perfect, least of all Wikipedians. But if you're gonna cry wolf, I wanna see some fur and flashing teeth before I grab my torch and pitchfork. I've never had any problems that couldn't be fixed by taking a step back, taking a deep breath and coming at it from another angle. So convince me that other people do, and that their problems are a result of Wikipedia's inadequacies rather than their own. (Wow, confrontational much?) JRM 18:11, 16 Apr 2005 (CDT)

Woo. Well, I asked for debate. I appreciate your statement that you will remain here only as long as you hope to see something of value emerge, or perhaps only until you are convinced the possibility is unlikely. As you point out, anything thrown onto the open floor will be immediately torn to shreds by those who lack common interest, and I don't encourage participation by those who don't want it.

The "established factions" are not Jimmy Wales and the Board; they are the current power structure. Established factions are, for instance:

  • Deletionists
  • Inclusionists
  • China-is-PRC Chinese
  • Taiwan-is-ROC Chinese
  • Flag all material that may unsuitable for small children -ists
  • Confrontationally color every possible article with nudity -ists (in re see "Titanic")
  • Copyright upholders
  • Technicians
  • Polish steam locomotive engineer family tree enthusiasts
  • Pokemonists

Each one of these groups seeks to redefine basic documents and processes to bias them towards their own agendas. There is constant forum-shopping.

The most fanatic members of these factions are One-Thing People. They turn every conversation around to their favorite hobbyhorse, and are utterly unproductive when it comes to building consensus.

I do hope that this caucus can stand as a body of respected, well-meaning, individuals guided by a sense of common purpose and with respect of the diversity of the Wikipedian Community. To the extent that we attempt to reach broad and inclusive consensus, and establish principles that apply generally, we are in direct opposition to all One-Thing People.

We should act swiftly to boot out any member of this caucus who comes to push a narrow agenda, to railroad it in, to bully the rest of us. No formal process is needed; we'll just give the One-Thinger the axe -- if necessary, we'll pack up and move elsewhere -- digital technology makes that a sight easier than moving to another room when a drunken conventioneer wanders in and pukes on the whiteboard.

However, I at least intend that this caucus be truly open. We have in place a very low bar for membership; "identify yourself" and, I suppose, "don't be a complete asshole". I am personally opposed to quite a few people I have invited to share this caucus. I encourage all members to invite not merely their friends, but their enemies. All I hope for is that we will all use common sense, and invite people who might reasonably be expected to contribute something, and not just walk around muttering, Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap! -- or hog the floor with incessant demands to have their pet projects elevated to the status of foundation issues.

I am not a gatekeeper.

"Wikipedia is not an experiment in politics" was written by somebody terribly naïve in politics. There is no such thing as a quarter of a million people all in one place, without politics. WP has been an experiment in politics ever since its active membership passed the 1000 mark or so.

Small communities have no politics; they have small group dynamics. They do not need rules or procedures. They work more or less together, and those who oppose the group are swiftly isolated. There may be a leader, but seldom more than one. As soon as there are more than 3 or 4 leaders, it becomes impossible to hope they will all agree -- and that begins the process of politics.

WP is not only an experiment in politics; it is an experiment in anarchy, with a little despotism mixed in. Near as I can tell, the despotism has been slight and benevolent -- I'm not complaining. In large part, the community has been left to develop its own rules and power structure, with little check or brake -- and nothing in the way of one, single, clear foundation document that all know, all accept, and which actually guides all actions.

Everywhere I go, I see blatant violations of each principle I have seen mentioned as a foundation principle. The fanatics rule in the streets. I believe Jimmy Wales has left the building -- or, more likely, that he feels it is wrong to replace chaos with an iron fist.

I agree. This is our community, not Jimbo's. By the very starting terms of the project, it is not owned by anybody, including the Wikimedia Foundation. For one, the project content is a movable feast; any group may fork it, including the entire community of editors. For another, no one man or small group can pretend to ownership of a community of human beings.

This is not a network of machines. It is a community of people.

I am not a forkist; I don't believe any action the community at large is able to agree upon will be opposed by the existing power structure. I only point out that the potential and legitimacy of fork is what empowers us to remain where we are and assert our right to self-government. And that means politics.

Personally, I suspect Jimbo is sitting on his throne, looking down, waiting for us to do this very thing.

..."if it ain't broke, don't fix it" -- I couldn't agree more. I have a home, a family, clients, and 4 or 5 personal projects to keep me busy. I begrudge the time I spend contributing substance to WP; and I detest the time I spend fending off fanatics, trolls, and orcs. I would turn my back on this project in a heartbeat, except that I feel it is perhaps the 3rd most important adventure of mankind -- the preservation of factual knowledge in a form accessible to all. I have done battle already in the 2nd most important, and the 1st is blocked to me. I devote my attention to WP to the exclusion of most pressing demands and to the detriment of my health. If there was any way I could accept the status quo, I would. I would never assume the additional burden of this caucus unless I believed it absolutely necessary.

You, JRM, are an Old Head; you've been on board a long time. You've seen the community weather many a storm, and rightly you feel it will weather another. And you are right -- and this is part of that process.

WP is literally unprecedented. It is now #62 in Alexa's ranking of most popular websites. That beats out a lot of very large and important sites. In contrast, Alta Vista is down at #70; the New York Times is at #54. Nor do I expect WP to fall in rank.

WP now has nearly a quarter million registered members. Most of them are inactive, of course, but how many do you suppose are active? 10,000? At least. It depends how you define "active". But I count as active members of the community the thousands of users who just come to read, to learn and move on, who never make an edit, much less register. They, too, are members of our community -- and it could be argued, the most important!

There has never been a wiki as large as WP; not even close. The nearest standard for comparison, to my way of thinking, is Slashdot -- I cannot even find them on Alexa, but they must be there Somewhere. Slashdot has degenerated into pure gamesmanship -- I no longer look to it for anything.

I don't know what it will take to make you believe we are in a state of crisis. I have been searching for a source to one specific metric -- the ratio of mainspace edits to edits in all other namespaces, graphed over time. Intuitively, I'm sure the ratio has been falling; but I cannot prove it, because I don't know how to get the data, or even who might be prevailed upon for it.

To me, the crisis is clear and obvious. We have outgrown the old family model -- outgrown it twice over. We are infested with tinpot dictators, who are knocked off their balsawood thrones as soon as they climb on -- but if nothing is done by men of good will, something will be done by those of evil intent.

Politics is a reality; some form of social structure will arise. No love of pure anarchy or status quo can stop this inevitable process. We must act together to ensure the minimum order necessary to preserve our freedoms -- many of which are now trodden into the mud.

  • When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle. -- Edmund Burke, "Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent"

[[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 19:56, 16 Apr 2005 (CDT)

Instruction creep

If I am guided by one thought in all of this, it is that instruction creep, resort to authority, and endless policy revision is corrupting the fabric of our society. Editing WP seems to me like being locked in a phone booth with a thousand angry rabbis.

The primary purpose of many foundation documents, such as the United States of America's Bill of Rights, is to prevent the passage of some kinds of laws and regulations. Some agendas are flatly blocked from consideration.

I should dearly like a Charter that asserts its primacy -- its absolute command of all other rules and policies -- inhibits instruction creep, and forbids scope creep.

I wish to see that Charter -- whatever it may be -- endorsed by such an overwhelming majority of Wikipedians that it will not be possible to overturn it or elevate some other agenda to a superior position.

And this can only be done if that Charter is worked out very carefully, by a number of Wikipedians, who edit it mercilessly, but with the common goal of developing something we can all agree upon. I do not doubt that it will be a rather short document. [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 18:25, 16 Apr 2005 (CDT)

Moved "Conflict Points" to Charter/Drafts/Conflict Points [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 07:15, 20 Apr 2005 (CDT)


These "Charter" pages look like they belong on Meta Wikipedia, not Meta Anarchopedia. I can see these problems potentially arising here eventually, but it appears that this pertains more to Wikipedia than Anarchopedia. Guanaco 19:41, 27 Apr 2005 (CDT)

Our presence here is on sufferance. I am frankly in love with the idea of conducting a political process in a corner of the home of anarchists. If the "residents" are annoyed, we'll just have to move. I only hope for sufficient notice to pack up our content for removal.
I do not want to host caucus on Meta Wikipedia. That wiki is too closely linked to Wikipedia itself. I believe we must, in some way, stand outside the community in order to work on a document that will serve as its foundation.
I appreciate our gracious hosts and hope we may continue to be permitted to potter about in our little corner. Thank You! [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 05:48, 30 Apr 2005 (CDT)

I think that (almost) any action which intends to make Wikipedia more free should be welcome at Anarchopedia. --Milos Rancic 09:28, 2 May 2005 (CDT)

I agree; this should be welcome here, but it needs to be more clear. I'll fix it. Guanaco 19:27, 3 May 2005 (CDT)
I will most probably be welcomed by 99.97% of people here. But i think you should make it more clear that this is intended for Wikipedians, i've spent too much time figuring out why this is here just now. I think you are doing a great thing trying to improve on Wikipedia (even though i now hate that place). Beta M 16:20, 26 December 2007 (UTC)