Wikipedia has given me a profound and intimate view of the mechanics of two new and related disciplines: 1) emergent orderliness and 2) wisdom of the crowds. Each is nicely epitomized in a popular book: Emergence, by Steven Johnson, and Wisdom of the Crowds, by James Surowiecki.
Surowiecki says that for the wisdom of crowds to be realized, there are three necessary conditions: 1) diversity, 2) independence, and 3) a particular kind of decentralization.
Jimmy Wales's original vision largely institutionalized these: 1) anyone can edit, 2) no one editor has more authority or influence regarding content; everything is based on consensus, and 3) Wikipedia is organically driven -- bottom up rather than top down.
Surowiecki's book gives many fascinating examples of the importance of diversity. My feeling is that any attempt to squelch diversity will decrease the quality of Wikipedia. One's motivation or point of view shouldn't really matter. As long as editors follow the rules, it's crucial that their diverse voices be part of the mix.
And the key point is following the rules. Steven Johnson's book describes the phenomenon of emergent orderliness in biological systems -- how it is that termites, with their tiny brains, can build such extraordinarily complex structures. Or how ants can create such well organized communities. It's because they instinctively follow a few very simple rules. (See Wikipedia's excellent article on Emergence.)
It is essential that everyone abide by Wikipedia's core principles — the simple rules that help give rise to the emergent order. And it's essential that factions not be allowed to flourish and thereby threaten the necessary conditions of Surowiecki's principles 2 and 3.
I'd like to see Wikipedia create a constitution that articulates these underlying principles of emergent order and wisdom of the crowds. Wikipedia's core policies are brilliant and powerful, but I view them as being operational. A constitution tries to articulate the abstract principles that are the underlying rationale.
|The Barnstar of Peace|
|Awarded to TimidGuy for exemplary patience and understanding. Just had a discussion in which I gave you as an example of politeness and understanding in extremely difficult circumstances, and felt it was about time that your behaviour was both acknowledged and rewarded. SilkTork ✔Tea time 22:11, 10 September 2013 (UTC)|
|The Helping Hand Barnstar|
|For being extremely gracious and patient with new editors. I'm glad I could help. Correct Knowledge«৳alk» 09:47, 7 January 2013 (UTC)|
|10 September 2014|