Wikipedia:WikiProject community rehabilitation/Idea/Esperanza, a retrospective

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The fourth anniversary of Esperanza's first MFD is approaching, and with this coming up I feel I should offer my opinion about this project and what Esperanza has to do with it. You really think that this project can or should "not be similar to Esperanza in any way"? Please don't listen to the stigmatization of others without listening to the other side first.

As I said a year before, Esperanza was founded in a time of growing pains. I will not attempt to go into the various affairs that ensued, but our more senior editors may recall scattered names and events like the Userbox Wheelwar or the VFD VFD or Willy on Wheels. There was a great deal of new users coming in at the time, and I think there was a perception, almost a fear that the community would run itself into its doom at that point. Thus, Esperanza was created.

This is where my first objection to the characterization of this project comes into play. I think it's admirable that you realize the need that this community has, but at the end of the day, your goals are that of a social function. Do you think that JCarriker, in creating Esperanza, anticipated that his "association of wikipedians dedicated to strengthening wikipedia's sense of community through establishing a support network for wikipedians in an environment that is often hostile and apathetic" would expand so greatly? Ultimately, if your goals are to affect the way in which the community interacts socially, the most direct way to do this is through a social function. If you set it free, this is the direction it will go. Of course, now you have Esperanza as a model of what to follow and what not to follow, but let's be clear, despite your disclaimer there is nothing much different from your description of "a group of editors devoted to supporting the community of the English Wikipedia and making contributors, both tenured and inexperienced, more comfortable." I daresay Esperanza's goal in that very first edit is even more direct than what you have proposed: It stated the method in which they would accomplish a betterment of the community, through a support network.

And support network they did. In a very short period of time Esperanza expanded, adding on an advisory council, among others, as well as a charter. Speaking from the perspective of someone who surveyed the governance with great interest, I concluded that fears of bureaucracy were pretty overblown. Did they really ever make an important decision besides "what program to implement next"? What harm did they do? If anything, the idea of tranches and elections was basically a little game to imitate ArbCom, even down to the tranche diagram. In practice, who were we to disallow someone with less than 150 edits to join? This was a support network after all, meant to be inclusive. In reality, this governance body really was not the driving force behind Esperanza, as the current writeup may have us believe.

And this was Esperanza's greatest strength and greatest triumph: that the users were the driving force behind it. Some of the programs proposed and created by Esperanzians have remained with us, some have been revived, and others have been deemed unfit. That's simply Darwikianism at work. This is not an ideal that we should divorce ourselves from! Not enough has been said about what Esperanza really did right.

As someone who was involved with Esperanza for a good amount of time, and now with the benefit of hindsight, I also see the unmentioned faults. While Esperanza was good at attracting and keeping the crowd of new users on Wikipedia, it did not instill many of these newcomers with the desire to push their boundaries further. In short, it created a sphere of comfort that we were loathe to come out of. I see this as the greatest fault, over distraction from the project (a fault I'm not convinced was even as severe as it was made out to be) or a holier-than-thou attitude (which I had never thought or heard about until the MFD). So in a way, I owe a lot to those two MFDs for showing me policies that I had never looked at and pages outside I had never thought about.

In short, what are the goals that we should aspire for?

  • First, set a concrete way to achieve a more tight-knit community, whether through support groups or community activities.
  • Second, find a balance between social function and encyclopedic improvement.
  • Third, encourage personal development for all users and discourage complacency.

I trust that with these goals in mind, we will be able to build up this community into something beneficial to all. bibliomaniac15 05:17, 9 November 2009 (UTC)

I very much appreciate this perspective Biblio, thank you for posting it. I myself was very, very against Esperanza. I was vocal on this during its XfDs - the point that I repeated again and again was that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a social networking site, not a place to shmooze, not a place to play games et. al.
It has been years since that tussle, but I think we need to make sure priorities are straight here. Issues of community are becoming more salient, and I don't think they should be ignored at all. However, building a better encyclopedia should always be the top goal, above all others - it's why we're here. JoeSmack Talk 02:55, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Jimbo Wales once spoke these wise words: