Wikipedia:You don't own Wikipedia

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You can post this sign in your own backyard...but not on Wiki articles or projects you contribute to.

On complex, community-oriented websites like the WMF projects, power users are accustomed to many social perks. They receive respect and honor from other members. Their knowledge of the technology wins them accolades and thanks from less adept users. Their knowledge of the community's standards and its Byzantine bureaucratic procedures results in them winning most disputes and easily avoiding lost causes. From the perspective of some of the less collegial ones, participation in the community can be largely a series of ego-stroking and self-esteem-enhancing interactions with lesser beings, punctuated by the occasional struggle among power users to identify their places in the community's dominance hierarchy. Eventually, many power users decide that they are entitled to this preferential treatment.

Narcissistic injury is the emotional damage that these power users incur when they discover, as they inevitably do, that their top place in the community's social hierarchy does not actually mean that they are in control of the website. The inescapable fact is that you don't own Wikipedia: the Wikimedia Foundation outranks the community.

The community does not own Wikipedia[edit]

Both according to law and in actual practice, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) owns the web domains and trademarks that make up the English Wikipedia, as well as the servers and internet connections that make it possible for others to read and edit it. The WMF has the moral and legal right, the practical power, and, in a few cases, the positive legal duty, to control the servers, the software, the website, the staff members, and the associated trademarks.

Each individual contributor owns only the copyright to his or her individual contributions. However, all contributors have irrevocably licensed their submissions in a way that allows anyone else, including the WMF, to copy, modify, and redistribute them.

For most everyday matters, the WMF chooses to defer to the community. This voluntary choice of theirs is what permits power users the illusion that the English Wikipedia is controlled by "the community", by which the power users mean the English Wikipedia is primarily controlled by themselves.

The WMF interferes with this delusion by taking four kinds of actions without community permission:

through office actions
These present a limited threat to the typical power user, because they are rare, nearly invisible, and are applied to very limited subjects, such as to suppress libel or child pornography, that don't affect power users.
through engaging in fundraising and making other announcements
Fundraising reminds the power user that without money, his favorite toy may disappear. Banner announcements irritate him by reminding him that people other than him may put information on the pages.
through adding or changing features in the software.
If the change is something the power user demanded, it is received as no more than his due. However, any change that disrupts his workflow, surprises him, or might encourage or empower lesser users, is a threat.
through refusing to add or change features in the software.
If the change is something the power user, or the community, demanded, the foundation may refuse to implement the change for their own reasons regardless of how much support there is for the change.

The motto that you only have two rights on Wikipedia: the right to fork, and the right to leave applies equally to individual power users and to large groups. Collective bargaining techniques may put some moral pressure on the WMF, but the Foundation is not bound to respect any decision of any editing community group, no matter how large. Power users sometimes also threaten to withhold their donations, but some are not donors anyway, and the majority of donors give less than US$100, so making a dent in the multimillion-dollar budget would require a concerted action by a large proportion of the community, rather than a snit by a few power users.

The editorial community does not own the developer community[edit]

Changes to Wikipedia's software can be requested through Bugzilla. NB: that's "requested", not "demanded like a spoiled three year old".

Developers are the people who write the MediaWiki software that the WMF websites use. Some developers are paid WMF staff members, but most of the couple hundred devs are volunteers. The developers are not the editors' serfs. Editors at the English Wikipedia have exactly as little control or right to boss around the devs as they have to control or boss around other editors: the power of persuasion, not the power of dictation.

How egotistical power users react[edit]

A typical response to narcissistic injury is fear and anger at having the power user's superiority threatened. The user then deploys his defense mechanisms against the threat. The power user declares that the threatening people are difficult, stupid, or bad. The failure to defer to the power user's personal preferences is deemed an insult to the entire community rather than a personal threat.

On the English Wikipedia, a power user's complaint against the WMF typically begins with denial, presented as a complaint about the WMF failing to "consult" or "gain consensus" for a change [or lack thereof] that inconveniences or merely surprises the power user. This complaint shows the power user pretending that the WMF actually requires prior written authorization from the community (as exemplified by its power users) to make changes to the WMF's own website.

The next stage is distortion. For example, the charge that there is "no consensus for the change" is not uncommonly laid without any respect for actual facts. A large majority of users may support the change, but the power user's dislike for the change is supposed to outweigh these lesser users' opinions. Multiple prior discussions may have been held, but these can be dismissed as having been insufficiently advertised, having happened on the wrong page, or showing insufficient participation (meaning any number of people not including the threatened power user). For example, the watchlist formatting change in 2012 resulted from an overwhelmingly positive, community-initiated, CENT-listed RFC at the Village pump (proposals), but, when it was implemented, these power users claimed that there was no RFC, no prior discussion, nobody knew about it, and nobody supported it. If the power user did participate, then clearly the discussion shows strong opposition (if the power user opposed it at the time, no matter how many people supported it) or the discussion was terribly confusing and misleading (if the power user is chagrined to discover that he supported the proposal at the time).

Finally, the power user seeks to have his ruffled feathers smoothed. The power user may make an impotent threat to leave the project in the hope of blackmailing the threatening people into caving into his demands, or at least receiving ego-soothing messages from his toadies, which form a type of narcissistic supply. He may announce a {{wikibreak}}, although he will probably not be able to stop reading the page. He may seek out a group of similarly offended power users to have a separate discussion whose participation is limited to people that agree with them, so that they can declare themselves to be the true representatives of the community and enjoy the pleasant, ego-soothing cognitive bias of false consensus effect.

Most of these defense mechanisms generate a significant amount of on-wiki drama. Other people's responses to the drama encourage the power user and reinforce his special status by showing him that the affront to his self-esteem is an important community concern, as demonstrated by the length, heat, and number of participants in the discussions.

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