Wikipedia:Reform

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Who's going to say it first? Wikipedia needs reforms. There are indications of serious problems. Experienced, good editors and admins are burning out at an alarming rate. Discussions happen all over the place, but never come to any real conclusion. Perpetual indecision plagues far too many things.

That is not an indictment of Wikipedia. Indeed, the incredible success of the English Wikipedia, if anything, proves that in conception and execution, it has worked excellently well.

Yet, it is this very success that Wikipedia may fall victim to. Wikipedia has, in the span of a few years, made the online equivalent of an explosion from a quiet, unknown village to the equivalent of New York City. This will mean some things have to change. The ad-hoc "village council" is indeed the best option for quiet, unknown villages. It would be a disaster for a major city.

It is the hope of this essay's author that frank discussion will occur here, regarding changes that need to be made. Minor ones and major ones both. It is also hoped that this will show there is a significant need for change, and "the way we've always done it" may not be the best way to do it tomorrow.

Given this, suggestions for reform follow below. Additional suggestions, and discussion on them, are welcome.

Opposition on principle at a high level[edit]

We need a little more pragmatism and a little less principle. Yes, it is true, we should never forget our ideals. But at the same time we're asking "Does this seem to be in keeping with the wiki ideal?" we need to ask ourselves "But, despite any of that, will it actually work? Will it do more good than harm?" Nothing can operate solely on principle. At some point, pragmatic considerations must enter into consideration. Precisely because of these issues, one of our most indispensable pillars is WP:IAR--the power to ignore all rules for the good of Wikipedia.

Failure to uphold principles at an individual level[edit]

Ironically, as opposition on principle keeps beneficial change from occurring on a large scale, on a small scale, editors totally fail to uphold those principles. All over, editors remove sourced information because they don't like what it says, revert rather than improve and guide, edit war, act uncivilly, and in short, do everything we shouldn't do. Those who try to own articles or cannot interact civilly with fellow editors, regardless of what justification they may offer for these actions, need to be told to shape up or leave. Those who don't do either need to be helped to leave.

Too much contempt for process[edit]

Yes, it is true, too much process is stifling. But too little is pure chaos. Sometimes, emergency action is indeed necessary. More often, however, it is comforting and reassuring to editors, even those who may end up not getting the result they like, to see that process ran as it was supposed to, and they got a "fair shake". Such editors may be much more upset by unilateral action, especially when no emergency exists.

Make up our collective mind[edit]

On the other hand, at some point, we must decide what the process is. A clear decision against what some people might want may make them uncomfortable, but the ground constantly shifting under a person's feet makes anyone uncomfortable. After a certain amount of discussion, it is time to put things to a straight up or down vote, or flip a virtual coin, or to do something to make a clear, unambiguous decision. Perpetual indecision is generally the worst of all alternatives, and it happens all too frequently. That doesn't mean discussion shouldn't occur, or be left to go on as long as it has a meaningful chance of resolution. But at some point it becomes clear that no "consensus" has been or will be reached, and it's time to make a decision. Consensus is a great way, probably the best way, to make decisions. But it's not the only one, and sometimes we can't reach that ideal. That doesn't necessarily mean we can leave the matter in limbo. Sometimes we might have to take a less ideal route to make some decision.

Wikipedia:Attribution would be the highest-profile instance of this, attracting the biggest "no consensus" poll seen to date.

Too much, and too little, assumption of good faith[edit]

Quite often, it will happen that an established editor is harassed and interrogated based on clearly correct actions, on grounds that they "bit" a newbie who is actually a troll. Conversely, if a newer editor has a legitimate grievance, they'll often be brushed off if an established editor or administrator speaks against them. We must learn to evaluate situations on their merits and their merits alone, not whether we like, dislike, or know at all any of the parties involved, and not on whether the person in question has made 20 edits or 20,000.

Admin abuse/cabalism[edit]

Allegations of admin abuse are frequently posted on ANI, user talk pages and other discussion areas of Wikipedia. Users who post such allegations are usually bitten and the allegations ignored, regardless of how valid the allegations may be. Although the majority of such allegations are trolling or otherwise bogus, some of them are valid, and Wikipedia needs channels to deal with valid allegations of administrator abuse. While egregious abuse usually results in emergency desysopping or desysopping by the Arbitration Committee, repeated but less egregious abuse (such as consistent incivility) may go unaddressed.