Shocker: Politics Exist On Wikipedia

from the perfectly-normal dept

The Register has a breathless write-up of a recent dispute among administrators on Wikipedia. Apparently, one Wikipedia administrator tried to ban another editor based on secret evidence, sparking widespread outrage among rank and file Wikipedians. The Register paints this as a grave crisis for the world's most popular encyclopedia. The rogue editor is apparently part of a secretive Wikipedia cabal that is fighting to maintain control of the site from outsiders, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is apparently "not admitting how deep this controversy goes." Mathew Ingram points out that the apocalyptic rhetoric is rather silly. Wikipedia, like every large organization—and especially like every organization run predominantly by volunteers—has a considerable amount of internal politics. Senior Wikipedians spend a lot of time on the site, and so naturally they have strong opinions about the way it should be run. The "rogue editor" appears to have drastically over-stepped her bounds and has been reprimanded. I don't follow Wikipedia's internal politics closely enough to know if the reprimand fit the crime, or if it would have been appropriate to strip her of her administrative privileges as some Wikipedians were demanding. But I think it's a mistake to think that this incident reflects some kind of crippling flaw in Wikipedia. The site has hundreds of passionate volunteers dedicated to making it better, and it has an open dispute-resolution process that makes it harder for under-handed tactics to stay undetected. The fact that senior Wikipedians have vehement disagreements is not an indictment of the site. Most organizations have these sorts of disagreements behind closed doors, while Wikipedia makes them public for everyone to see. In the long run, that's going to prove one of Wikipedia's strengths, not a weakness.

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Comments on “Shocker: Politics Exist On Wikipedia”

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Petréa Mitchell says:

Public disagreements

“Most organizations have these sorts of disagreements behind closed doors, while Wikipedia makes them public for everyone to see.”

I believe the news interest is that the secret mailing list made the discussion not public for everyone to see. Similarly the history deletion capability available to some senior Wikipedians, which has been used in other high-profile disputes.

Kelly Martin (user link) says:

Wikipedia's dispute resolution system

The whole reason for the hue and cry over the “!!” incident is that Durova tried to bypass the public discussion process that the Wikipedia community has come to expect and demand, and in so doing said things that suggested the existence of secret groups that are seeking to control Wikipedia. On top of this, you have Jimbo running about trying to squash disagreement, trying to ensure that those disagreements continue behind closed doors instead of in the open. What you’ve identified as Wikipedia’s strength is actually being actively undermined, mostly in secret, by Jimbo and others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I note with interest that the left of Wikipedia (which is waaay left of reality) is still chewing on the Swift boat veterans entry.

As is the right (you?), since this post appears to be about as nonsequitur as you can get

Give it up guys. Read their new book.

‘new book’? Looks like a lot of people on the right are ‘still chewing’

Shane C (user link) says:

But he’s not admitting how deep this controversy goes. Wales and the Wikimedia Foudation came down hard on the editor who leaked Durova’s email. After it was posted to the public forum, the email was promptly “oversighted” – i.e. permanently removed. Then this rogue editor posted it to his personal talk page, and a Wikimedia Foundation member not only oversighted the email again, but temporarily banned the editor.

Then Jimbo swooped in with a personal rebuke. “You have caused too much harm to justify us putting up with this kind of behavior much longer,” he told the editor.

From the above paragraphs, it appears that “Jimbo” Wales (Founder of Wikipedia, and “Chair Emeritus” of the Wikimedia Foundation) is not supporting the “open dispute resolution process,” but instead is actively trying to undermine it. The fact that he personally banned (even temporarily) the editor that brought to light the secretive group, only damns himself in the process.

On a personal note, I find this unfortunate, and hope this leads to reform, and fast adherence to the “open policy,” instead of the downfall of what I consider one of the most worthy projects on the net.


Angelo says:

You Wikipedians will go any length to bend reality, don’t you?

Heah, but more power to you. The weirder your fabricated interpretations of reality become, the worse Wikipedia’s reputation will be.

And looking at the last twelve months, it seems it doesn’t take much more to finally push it over the edge of being classified as “group of total lunatics”.

Shofet says:

Too many Wikipedia admins abuse power tools.

I have had such a case with A._B. a wikipedia admin whom has no problem whatever to post plain lies as evidence, when confronted with the lies, he blocked my account…

Wikipedia has too many kids acting as policemen, they would ban you and block you for no reason whatever, and if you try to appeal against the decision, then their class mates would block you too… give it 1-2 more years and wikipedia would disappear.

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