Wikipedia talk:Expert rebellion

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This page is in the process of being merged with Wikipedia talk:Expert Retention. Please make changes over there and not here; this page will likely become a redirect (or deleted) soon. While I presume you are correct about User:Lacatosias, eis user page doesn't say anthing about this; you might want to link to something more specific, if this is available; i.e. contribs (showing a lack of recent activity), a goodbye message, etc. JesseW, the juggling janitor 22:15, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

Yes, a good point. I am trying to encourage people to do this. Dbuckner 05:21, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

You may want to consider User:Rcpaterson for your list, per this. Quite a good line. Angus McLellan (Talk) 12:06, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

Beautiful! Thanks. Dbuckner 13:52, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
You may want to consider restricting your page to Scientific Experts.
Otherwise I could see all kinds of self-declared "experts" showing up here: religous and pseudo-religious fanatics, fanboys, celebrity stalkers, etc.
Sure, normally they're the ones who are "winning", scaring off every other reasonable person, but still, I'm sure some of those worst offender might get banned, pissed off, and ending up here, as disillusioned "experts"...--Frescard 02:52, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
Just to point out that historians may well have a bigger problem than experts on science, as it's an area more rife with opinions and information on the web tends to be outdated. The above case may have gone out with a "Beautiful" flourish, but as far as I'm concerned it's a tragedy with a well-meaning tag being the final straw. Not, as you'll note, a self nomination. Also, there's no shortage of self-declared Scientific Experts: just browse talk:Intelligent Design to see semi-religious fanatics full of confidence in their "science" being fended off. It's always going to be a judgement call. ...dave souza, talk 08:22, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

"Users who have left for other reasons."[edit]

I had no idea that putting my name on the page meant that I had left, I thought it just meant that I was discontented with the system. Someone should change this ( I'm not game to, I'm not sure of the situation) or I will have to remove my name.

Yes, also Jkelly(a quite active admin) certainly hasn't left. ;-) JesseW, the juggling janitor 23:19, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
Fixed Dbuckner 07:29, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

A further discussion[edit]

In promoting this list, you have rightly made more people aware of a potentially growing problem. However what is really needed is some means to work from the list, derive the major problems, and work on solutions. I've made such a page at User:LinaMishima/Experts Problem, and I'd welcome more involvement. LinaMishima 18:53, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

Thanks - I'll work on some links to this. Dbuckner 07:02, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Timothy J Scriven[edit]

Hardly made a lot of contributions over the month he was active on the project - is he really worth including in the list ? Megapixie 04:32, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

I'll look into it. Dbuckner 07:30, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
Well I have been here longer than I've used that user name. Besides of which the criteria for signing is not the number of edit's you've made, it's being discontent. Timothy J Scriven 02:45, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Fair enough. However, do you have a clear statement of why you are discontented? That is important. Dbuckner 09:54, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Say no more. I see you have already done so. Apologies. Dbuckner 09:57, 3 September 2006 (UTC)


I agree that you've formulated the problem correctly. My issues with WP are exactly those you describe. I am not disgruntled or unhappy with WP. Rather, I feel that I've assessed the Wikipedia project to have a structural or systemic set of problems that I'm incapable of fixing. The practical result to me of that set of problems is that my time is wasted. Good edits I have made disappear or are altered and need to be 'maintained'.

Jimbo keeps talking about an 'article review' process as though it were the thing that was going to fix this problem set. However, all discussions about it center on the 'featured article' paradigm, which is to say, 'article review' is generally envisioned as 'featured article with teeth.' Since the same group of people (all WP editors) are invited to participate in featured article review as are invited to edit articles, I can't see that this could possibly address the problems we've identified.

I tend to find, as you have, that good WP articles often result from the careful attention and maintenance of a small subset of people. These people distinguish themselves by a willingness to spend more time attending to the article.

I also have found that bad WP articles often result from the careful attention and maintenance of a small subset of people. These people distinguish themselves by a willingness to spend more time attending to the article.

Thanks for your thoughts - they're appreciated. --ikkyu2 (talk) 20:23, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

We need structure[edit]

This whole "movement" of disenchanted WP editors seems quite scattered right now. Everybody is airing their discontent on their own little user page, and whether you find them or not is mostly left to luck.

There are lots of very well written critical articles. Lots of people with links to lots of other people, but it's all randomly scattered across the Web and WP.

It seems we need to organize this information, as well as this movement a bit better, for it to become effective.

Rather than having dozens of independent user pages we should have a dedicated, independent wiki, to act as a central collection point for all those essays, links, documentation, etc. We would probably also need a proper discussion forum that allows real, threaded discussions - edit-proof, and with layered access rights. AND - to avoid that place from getting run over by even more cranks it might be a good idea to make the whole thing invitation-based.

I'd be more than willing to help out with this whole endeavour. I myself am not a scientific expert (I'm a software developer), but I'm very sad to see what's happening to a great idea like Wikipedia, and something needs to be done to keep the cranks from taking over.

I also don't think alternative encyclopedias are an option anymore. WP has gained too much momentum by now. Contributors have invested too much effort into this project already, and it's unlikely anybody would want to do the same thing once again on another project.

--Frescard 19:34, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

I concur that alternative encyclopedias are not the answer. I was involved with an attempt at, WiSci the free science encyclopedia from its inception (in fact I wrote most of the policy pages), however despite the support of one of the more popular open science forums (of which it was a spin-off)it has become inactive.
I'm afraid if there is any hope of saving this paradigm (in the OED sense of the word) it is going to have to happen here. DV8 2XL 20:15, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
I agree absolutely. Let's keep this to WP. On the scattering of independent user pages, I agree, and I agree at some point this should all be put together. However I am still at the stage of trying to understand who I can trust. The first list on the page next door shows people some of whom I have conclusively verified as leaving for the 'right' reasons (in my view, being fed up with trolls and vandals, lone cranks and crank subgroups, and edit creep). The second list are of those who I have verified in some way as being the sort of people that people on the first list are fed up with - see the comments by Gwernol below. I don't want to be involved with people who are not prepared to be constructive, and are not prepared to 'work within the system' in some way. Dbuckner 07:22, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Jon Awbrey[edit]

[I have moved this from my talk page - see the message I sent back on Gwernol's page] Dbuckner 07:23, 3 September 2006 (UTC).

As far as I can tell Jon is an editor who wants to create special editing privileges for those who are 1) experts in their field and 2) edit under their real names [1]. Of course he refuses to specify how he would reliably tell which editors fall into those categories. Its hard to be sure what his aims really are as he delights in obfuscation and hyperbole, not to mention sockpuppetry and evasion. My perception is that Jon is a highly intelligent man who has dug himself into a hole and refuses to stop digging. He is rapidly heading towards an indefinite ban here because he refuses to compromise on anything but his exact way, yet can't (or more likely won't) articulate exactly what that might be. I would advise you to steer clear of him. Best, Gwernol 18:27, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

I too signed up with Jon before realizing that he favors a more disruptive approach than I am comfortable with. I have withdrawn my name as well. DV8 2XL 09:58, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Though Jon clearly seems to have made some good contributions to philosophy (e.g. Peirce, semiotics). But it is clear that only a constructive approach is going to work, and he seems to have alienated many in the community. Dbuckner 10:47, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

JA: Okay, I thought that might be the place. The passage in question is this:

JA: I suggest that WP editors who have been gracious, responsible, and up-front enough to contribute under their real world names simply ignore all of the gratuitous but ungracious advice that they get from editors who don't. These are matters that cannot even be fairly discussed except within the separate rules of a peer-review subsystem. Jon Awbrey 17:16, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

JA: I think that the context of that remark and my subsequent comments on a query about it should have made it clear that I was most definitely not proposing that WP "create special editing privileges for those who are (1) experts in their field and (2) edit under their real names". The whole point of what I said there is that it is Neither (1) Possible, Nor (2) Necessary for WP to set up such a "distinct society" (as some Canadians say) within WP. But it's a time for R&R, so I will elaborate further tomorrow. Jon Awbrey 02:38, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

The questions to answer[edit]

To avoid this becoming too much of a talking shop, here is a list of the questions I would like to answer. I am interested in opinions, but more interested in solid evidence that there is a serious problem in Wikipedia to be solved.

To solve problems, you need a very clear and (if necessary) detailed description of the problem. If you have this, the cause of the problem is usually clear. And if you know the cause of the problem, the solution may be to remove the cause.

Question Evidence Why important
Is there a problem with the quality of articles in certain areas. Examples of poor quality articles in different areas. This requires cooperation of editors in other subject areas (there is a vocal group of philosophers, but who else is out there?) Wikipedia's ambition is to be a good quality internet encyclopedia. Without good quality articles in all areas, this will not be possible
Is the quality of the article correlated with competence in subject area? Evidence that the good articles have been written by individuals, or small groups of individuals working together. There is a widely held view in the WP community that there is no such correlation. Without a consensus on this question, there can be no change to policy.
Do good quality articles suffer 'edit creep', i.e. degrade because of piecemeal editing? Diffs from articles that have manifestly suffered loss of quality in this way. Competent editors will become disillusioned and leave when they see good work degrading.
Are editors of good quality articles leaving Wikipedia? 'Exit interviews', war stories &c Without editors of good quality articles, there will be no good quality articles.

At the root of all of the above issues is Wikipedia’s corpus of policy. It is gaps in this area that create the conditions that permit cranks and the incompetent to operate freely and makes bringing them under control such an exhausting exercise.
My issue with the rules here stems from the fact that they are all in tension with each other. This along with the disabling policies of Wikipedia:Ignore all rules and Wikipedia:No binding decisions is an invitation for anarchy.
Exacerbating this condition, ArbCom has as part of its policy that it will not be bound by precedent. Wikipedia:Arbitration policy/Past decisions. As a consequence this internal tension cannot ever be eased by due process. The excuse that this to avoid having to repeat a ruling that may have proved not to be workable is ludicrous on its face; they are not the last level of appeal, that belongs to the Foundation and Wales. If a precedent needs overturning it can be done there.
A doctrine of open ended rules was appropriate in the beginning of the Project; it provided room for quick maneuver and adjustment during the initial phase and allowed for some flexibility as the project defined itself. However if it is to mature beyond its present state some solidification has to occur. Getting rid of those three 'anti-rules' would be a good start.
Ahem. Who says these are problems? Step one, prove that they are serious problems. If enough people accept this, the policy changes will happen just like that. My feeling - just from the replies I am getting, is that not enough people in the community accept there is any kind of problem at all. Dbuckner 15:31, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Well, I am not suggesting they are problems per se, only that this sort of ambiguity being allowed to continue at this stage of Wikipedia's development is at the root of almost all of the issues that the 'rebelling experts' have brought up.
How big a problem is this loss of expertise remains to be seen, and to some extent will depend on an individuals perception of what Wikipedia is. No doubt the four cranks that I did serious battle with see my departure from active involvement as a positive turn of events. One of them, despite my inactivity for the last three months, dropped by my talk page to leave a parting blast.
Also there are those who have given up without bothering to state their reasons: User: Ste. Anne, a personal friend and ex-colleague, was so appalled by what he saw that he gave it up as a waste of time after a few weeks. User:Whitlock (who is Dr. Jeremy J. Whitlock of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd) in a personal correspondence with me stated that he hated Wikipedia and resented every moment he spent working here. He continues to monitor articles on the Canadian nuclear industry more out of a sense of duty and national pride than anything else.
Now Wikipedia may not recognise the professional credentials of these two, but I do as I know them in meatspace, and the loss is considerable. Ste. Anne in particular is a retired electrochemist with about forty years of experience and would have done a great deal to clean up articles that topic which are now a disgrace.
How big an problem is that? Well if I know of two it would suggest that there are many more.
Then beyond the cranks, the wanabes, and the POV pushers who are happy with the current state of affairs, there are those that are blissfully unaware. I don't spent much time in the history sections of Wikipedia, I only go there to look something up, and rarely look at the talk pages. To me it looks just fine, but maybe the editing community there is suffering the same problems that I see in the sci/tech topics. Point is that just because the majority can't yet see a problem it doesn't mean it's not there. DV8 2XL 17:29, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Much better. Concrete evidence. Thanks. Do you have any specific bits of talk pages you can reference? Dbuckner 18:54, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Would the two people you mention be prepared to send any war stories or thoughts. Particularly interested that someone left after a few weeks. That's absolutely concrete proof that WP is unable to attract good editors. But would need to understand what it was he saw. All help appreciated. Dbuckner 18:59, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
User:Ste. Anne put up a statement on his user page in response to an e-mail I sent him yesterday. DV8 2XL 09:17, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

A modest proposal[edit]

[Copied from the 'Elsewhere' project page]. JohnA of Wikipedia Review writes...

If I ran Wikipedia, I'd put every single article on it on a six monthly or yearly review cycle. If its still a stub after 6 months after creation, I'd delete it automatically. If it's an unreadable mess, I'd pare it down to a stub and put it on the "rewrite it or die" list of two months duration. I'd have a quality control box on every single article for completeness, grammar, readability, citations which people can vote for (including visitors) and every three months any article that doesn't have good quality in at least three of the categories, gets pared down to a stub and put on the "rewrite or die" list. Every editor will get a karma rating depending on the quality of the articles produced (automatically from the article quality), so editing an article which you don't know anything about the subject becomes a risk to your karma, reducing the amount of senseless fucking about with articles that happens at the moment.

People with low karma will only be able to edit the lowest quality articles, and people with high karma will be able to edit them all, so if you've got low karma better improve some articles and get your karma risen or face being able to edit fewer and fewer articles.

I'd purchase a large corporate license to and test all of the featured articles and a random sample of 5% of the others for plagiarism. Any article which has plagiarized sentences gets put on a special watch and the article authors warned and their karma reduced. If the plagiarism approaches 25% then it gets pared down to a stub and put into "RW or D"

I'd have an automatically generated list of the top ten or twenty contributors to each article, and I'd reward quality scholarship with prizes, attaboys and attagirls, featured contributors on the front page, scholarships to universities or paid holidays, and I'd let everyone know what wonderful authors we have on Wikipedia.

I'd have fewer editors as a result, but when someone says "I am a Wikipedia author" it will actually enhance their reputation as a good person rather than harm it.[2]

Made some good points, I think DV8 2XL 18:04, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

The problem, as we all recognise, is that this requires some sort of independent criterion of quality. What we need is for a CONSENSUS system to do this. Let's not forget that consensus does work, and is the reason why much of WP is as good as it is. Groups of like-minded people work together on articles, and such groups tend quickly to recognise, as a group, when someone is not contributing good quality stuff. That is undeniable. The problem (I am guessing) is that there is no REWARD for behaving in this way, i.e. no reward whatever for being recognised as part of the group, as opposed to some belligerent troll or crank or whatever. As someone put it, the cranks and trolls are winning. Dbuckner 09:39, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
I posted that not to suggest that this was the way to go, but more as a start - a talking point, as it were - to stimulate discussion on solutions. While crying on each other's shoulders may provide some comfort, unless we move forward with some concrete ideas we are wasting our time again. DV8 2XL 10:09, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
And nothing wrong with moaning together as a kind of bonding. Dbuckner 10:44, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

John A replies[edit]

As I was the person who wrote the proposal, I thought I'd contribute to the discussion.

Let me make it clear - there is no possible meeting point between the consensus of everyone and academic or scholarly quality. None at all. Academic scholarship is founded on the most elitist system ever invented - a system which is the opposite of the Wikipedia model. Even more it is the economic model on which Wikipedia is founded which utterly fails to understand human motivation or any reasonable quality system, which will eventually bring Wikipedia down. It is an alternative economic model that I was really proposing - which is the Reward system that Dbuckner was referring to - which is fundamentally incompatible with the way Wikipedia operates.

There is no independent assessment of article quality. What actually happens is that the administrators adjudicate for their own belief systems and their own political powerbases and rapidly game the system against editors through the use of political power - and academic quality and accuracy be damned. You can all easily think of examples of this - do I need to name names?

One of the things that I would change on Wikipedia immediately (other than banning anon edits) would be to ban administrators from editing articles at all. Administrators, in my scheme of things, would be the encyclopedic editors, enforcing quality standards regardless of source and working from a very strict recipe of scholarly guidelines.

The end result of all this, is that sadly Wikipedia is doomed to making the same mistakes, producing even more scandals, becoming more and more known as the acme of unreliability, political shenanigans and bad workmanship, and in the future being known as the model for how not to produce any quality publication, doing for collaborative production what the Titanic did for Atlantic cruises.

I feel most sorry for the Exopedians who did most of the best work on Wikipedia, because they are the people most betrayed and most unrewarded by the Wikipedia Rolling Ball of Disaster. I don't wish it to be that way - but wishing something doesn't make it real.

I'd like to thank DV8 2XL and Dbuckner for discussing my contribution. -- John A 20:34, 14 April 2007 (UTC)

The Serious non-Expert contributor rebellion[edit]

[I have copied this from Lina's page - User talk:LinaMishima/Experts Problem]. Who writes:

"I'm separating myself from this assocation of expert whiners and malingerers. To me, it has become rather obvious that true "experts" have no need to complain.
"What the hell is your probem anyway? If you really are "experts" with the appropiate qualifications go and get your work published by one of the billions of acedmic jounals, publish a book, write for the SEP, Brittanica, IEP, Scicne have gazillions of options. Lacking such sufficent qualifications of this nature, I do not have these options. If I did, I would take advandtage of them and stop whining about Wikipeidia. I started writing on the 'pedia because it's avaialble to non-credentialed but serious writers and scholars. I am disgusted with the cranks, the fanatical movements, edit creep and all the other nonsense. Thereofre, I plan to start the "serious non-expert contributor rebellion" againt both experts who prevent people like myself from being allowed to publish their writing in serious journals and other forums AND from the cranks and other malevolent destroyers of high-quality content conttibuted by myself on the Wackipedia. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 09:06, 3 September 2006 (UTC)"
And of course I (at least) agree, Franco. Your contributions to the philosophy pages of WP are known (by those who know) to be among the finest in Wikipedia. I regret using the word 'expert'. That said, you are in fact a subject matter expert. What you mean is that you don't have expert 'credentials'. I never used that word, and I have always been opposed to it. Dbuckner 09:43, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
I prefer the word 'competent' when I can use it. The problem is that there is no noun in English for 'competent person'. Expert for that noun phrase, ha ha. Dbuckner 09:59, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
I think you are confusing "expert" and "professional". An amateur can be an expert, and a professional can be a dud. --KSmrqT 19:17, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
do you mean me, or Franco? I've already used the word 'credential'. Also, within the scholarly world (which includes professionals and non-professionals) there is the distinction between those who get published in peer-reviewed journals (only about 1 in 10 of submitted articles ever makes it to publication). Then there are professionals with tenure, and those without, &c &c. Dbuckner 07:28, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

From Lina's Page[edit]

I'm not sure what to make of this contribution. "ragesoss" has been an editor since Dec 2005, not long by some of our standards. But he has done some excellent work on the Johannes Kepler article. He refers to the difference between 'Scientific' point of view and 'NPOV'. I've heard of this distinction, but never understood it. I thought the scientific point of view was precisely the neutral point of view, i.e. go where the evidence and the logic takes you, rather than where peer pressure, the establishment, threats of torture &c want you to go. Dbuckner 16:09, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Which fundamental assumption are you referring to? For the well-meaning but inept degradation of articles type of edit creep, I don't claim that it's not a problem. But it's a problem with some solutions in the works; particularly, once there is support for stable versions, it will be much easier to maintain articles that are merely the subjects of inept editing. And that kind of edit creep generally doesn't generally destroy the valid information in an article or lead to edit wars, it just destroys the style and coherency. The more long-term problem is the type of edit creep (if we want to call it that) you complain about below (also by well-meaning and sometimes well established and even "good" editors) for articles like intelligent design. I believe these are fundamentally NPOV conflicts; one of the main reasons intelligent design is such a problem article is that many readers and editors don't see their viewpoints treated adequately, and the regular editors who control the article seem committed to (at least implicitly) maintaining a Scientific rather than Neutral POV. The goal of NPOV is to create an article where all sides can agree that their own views are adequately represented; for the most problematic articles, the defenders of the mainstream views are so zealous in fighting what they see as pseudoscience that a Wikipedia-style NPOV is never achieved.--ragesoss 14:28, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
The Scientific Point Of View is a dead idea that was mooted about last year (see: WP:SPOV) to address the issue of balance vs readability in those topics in science where there are competing theories.
In short: (from the page) an article on cosmology (study of the Universe) should provide a balance of the different types of cosmology, eg. Big Bang Cosmology, Steady state theory, Plasma cosmology, etc.
But an article on, for example, the Big Bang Cosmology should present cosmology from the point of view the Big Bang theory. In which case, a NPOV might mention that there are other cosmologies, but the article would not need to balance each fact with counterpoints on each and every alternative cosmology.
In other words, an article's inherent point of view, ie. the subject of the article, takes precedence over a more general neutral point of view. DV8 2XL 18:04, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Allow me to inject my earlier comments from that same page, lest I somehow come off as anti-science or anti-expert:
"By dividing the problem into misinformation and disagreement over NPOV, I don't mean to suggest (for example) that scientific issues are in the former category while philosophy topics are in the latter. But the scientific topics that are controversial and subject to POV-pushing (as opposed to the problems ikkyu2 describes regarding the epilepsy article) typically have significant social/cultural components as well as issues of fact. Part of the problem is that experts want to treat these articles as solely scientific issues, or to artificially divide the scientific from the social, when the best approach would be to deal with both aspects and the ways they do and do not interact (as the social science and humanities experts who study these issues do). Editors who do not understand the difference between NPOV and a Scientific POV, or do not understand/agree that NPOV (a superset of SPOV) is preferable, are bound to be frustrated—and in some cases, we may be better off without them. The journalistic "equal time" model is severely flawed, but so is the overzealous use of the "undue weight" clause of NPOV policy to excise the viewpoints of small but vocal minorities (which is certainly not the way to create a stronger consensus or move the cultural baseline forward). When NPOV is working properly, minority/crank views can be described (even if this means giving somewhat more article space than the proportional support of those views) along with the consensus or majority take on those views."
I should also add that the intelligent design articles have been improving in this regard, to the point where legitimate concerns of new editors are much rarer than they were, say, six months ago (in my opinion)--but of course, the outright fanaticism has not abated. I suspect (and I say this as a historian, so take it with a grain of salt) this has to do with the trend towards historicizing the issues, which is usually an effective way to get reasonable people with differing viewpoints to agree about NPOV. Also, the level of incivility that used to be tolerated on those pages has dropped, which always helps.--ragesoss 19:10, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
I think you have hit the nail on the head when you suggest that the issue is that NPOV is being confused with BPOV (balanced point of view). DV8 2XL 19:25, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

As I understand, NPOV is to allow only edits to which all parties would agree. How about these

  • Dinosaurs were vertebrate animals that dominated the terrestrial ecosystem for over 160 million years, first appearing approximately 230 million years ago. (from Dinosaur).

Shouldn't this read 'according to some …' or something like that? And there is no citation there, in any case. If I were in a mischievous mood, I would be going round all articles like this and be slapping citation/neutrality warning tags all over the place. I see that if I look up Adam this says " Adam ("Earth" or "man", Standard Hebrew אָדָם, Adam; "Soil" or "Light Brown", Arabic آدم, Adam) was the first man created by Elohim according to the Abrahamic religious tradition.". This contains the acceptable 'according to the Abrahamic religious tradition'.

The article Universe says "The age of the universe (currently accepted to be 13.7 billion years)". This is not quite so bald a statement as the other one, but who says it is 'currently accepted'? I thought more than 50% of people in the USA do not accept this idea? Dbuckner 07:25, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

This is the issue of balance vs readability I mentioned above. It's almost impossible to write in tight declarative prose, and maintain an absolute NPOV. What can be attained is a neutral position within the bounds of the topic's inherent point of view. DV8 2XL 09:44, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

More thoughts[edit]

Some random thoughts on the process; I've been thinking about this issue quite a bit. I don't have any answers--some ideas, some of them fairly significant changes to Wikipedia--but I'd rather explore the problem space first before proposing solutions:

  • First, perhaps we ought to consider a Wikipedia:WikiProject to address this issue, rather than occupying a small corner of User:Dbuckner's virtual living room? We could better attract interested parties (but watch out for those who would sabotage such an effort) as a WikiProject.
  • Second, recognize that some experts probably don't belong on Wikipedia. Many intelligent individuals who contribute wonderful science and scholarship to our body of knowledge, are difficult to deal with in person. In the current organizational scheme, they don't last long on Wikipedia, as they are unable to throw their weight around here. We need be careful to ensure that any change in policy or structure designed to better enable and/or reward experts, does not result in permitting annointed experts being dicks to other users, or otherwise act in an uncivil manner. Unfortunately, the academic and professional cultures found in many places regard being an asshole as an established right (and duty!) of authority figures; such behavior is and should not be tolerated on Wikipedia. I'm not sure Wikipedia wants or needs experts (or any editors) who cannot be part of a community.
  • Third... Wikipedia could benefit from both expertise and professionalism; as is pointed out above, these two don't go hand in hand. (Here, "professional" refers to a method of operation, rather than to the act of getting paid for one's work). Many experts aren't very professional; and many professional, competent editors aren't experts on any significant topic. We must be careful not to favor one ove the other; we need both.
    • As a further comment: Increasing professionalism probably requires less tolerance of some practices which are now tolerated on Wikipedia.
  • Fourth: A while back, I (and one other editor) proposed WP:EXPERT, a minimalist guideline proposal which esentially repeated Jimbo's advice to be nice to experts. The policy failed to be implemented; there was widespread disagreement from several editors who regard egalitarianism as a fundamental and invioable property of Wikipedia. I'm not suggesting that this proposal be reconsidered, though the discussion might be of interest.
Thanks for the comments. As it is still early stages for a project, I'm comfortable just exploring the "problem space". I wholly agree with you about 'expert rudeness'. Suggestion: we have a new category called 'caretaker'. This is a class that have better access rights, and certain powers of veto that would stop silly arbitration disputes going central. Their powers would be defined by, and restricted to subject area (would there be a problem with caretakers for Scientology, I wonder?). The qualification for being a caretaker is simply being elected by other caretakers in that class. The selection critera would be (1) whether the other caretakers trust this person to work on subject matter articles (editing, reviewing &c) (2) does the candidate have the right sort of behaviours appropriate to a caretaker, such as being welcoming to newcomers, being inclusive, not being a dick (however we define that!) and so on. I know admins have to go through a similar process. The important thing is to get away from the idea of 'expert', and towards the recognition of a class of people here who are not admins, but have contributed a lot to WP – if not everything that is of value to WP – and who are currently getting very frustrated about the lack of recognition, and the lack of progress. Dbuckner 07:14, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
PS User:KimvdLinde has an excellent essay on his or her talk page. He or she uses the expression 'babysitter'. Dbuckner 07:40, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

--EngineerScotty 21:54, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Much of what you ask for as "professionalism" is subsumed under "civility". Still, there is more to it than that. I also look for taking pride in a job well done, doing the homework to support good work, sticking with the job 'til it's done, listening to the client, and other such behaviors. Sadly, those who lack these habits may fail to recognize and respect them in others. --KSmrqT 23:27, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Sorry Kim's off. The link there to What's wrong with Wikipedia is useful and the comment about Respect other contributors being difficult for experts is understandable, which is why civility becomes really important all round. It may be noted that it's not a new problem. ..dave souza, talk 16:22, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

A new path[edit]

Along the line of the "caretaker" role mentioned above, here are some thoughts I've had recently; I apologize for the long speech.

One thing I've noticed about the evolution of Wikipedia over the 5+ years that it has been existence. It has gone from a free-for-all community with few formal rules and processes (Jimbo has always had his finger on the "off" switch, but other than that, all users were equal), to one with several layers of administrators, an arbitration committee, lots of different security levels for users, and other technical measures designed to make sure that people play nice. Correspondingly, of course, Wikipedia has grown from a small site run by a collection of dedicated enthusiasts, to a top-20 website with millions of articles (counting all language editions), thousands if not tens of thousands of active users, about one thousand admins, and tons of notice, both good and bad, in the popular press. In short, over the last five years, Wikipedia has addressed concerns of scalibility with increasing administrative policy (though policy which still light compared to many other places).

The key word, of course, is administrative. Administrators are charged with supervising and carrying out administrative tasks--moving pages, enforcing policies like NPA and 3RR, warning and disciplining users (blocking them if necessary), protecting pages as necessary to thwart vandalism and edit wars. Admins are not, however, given any superior editorial role in Wikipedia. Admins are allowed to delete uncontroversial vandalism and other nonsense on sight, but on any issue which may be controversial, admins are required by policy to defer to the community; FTMP, the Wikipedia community still is master of the content here. (Some administrators sometimes exceed their mandate, claiming it is to the betterment of the encyclopedia for them to do so; this is controversial). Other admin powers, such as page deletions (excluding speedies), are still only to be exercised at the command of the community, per defined processes (such as AfD). Even the ArbCom, the only dispute-resolution mechanism with any real authority, is only chartered to resolve user dipustes, not content disputes. Other than a few policies imposed from above to deal with legal issues (primarily surrounding libel and copyright issues, where Wikipedia has legal oblications to fulfill), the editorial functions of the encyclopedia are still community-owned.

This, I think is one thing which troubles many of the defecting experts above; and is also something which is considered an invioable principle of the Wikipedia by many other users.

The German Wikipedia, of course, gained lots of attention recently for it's introduction of "trusted versions" of pages, wherein a limited class of users has been granted authority to declared certain page revisions "trusted"; users can choose to read only the versions of articles so deemed. Even this minor change has been controversial; personally, I think it's an excellent idea. At any rate, it represents the first notable instance of Wikipedia assigning an editorial function to a subset of the users.

I don't think that there should be an editor-in-chief in the future, with the power to declare which of the Israelis or Palestinians have been naughtier, or whether we presently are at war with Oceania or Eastasia. I think that outside of foundation, legal, and server-capacity issues (where I have no trouble with the Foundation intervening), the community should ultimately still own the content of the encyclopedia. But just as we have outgrown the anarchy model of site administration, we may soon outgrow (or have already) the "anarchy" model of content generation and refinement; it may be time for an elected subset to assume some roles in this regard. Obviously, we should tread lightly in this direction.

One final point on the subject of administrators: Many times, it is considered a prerequisite of any RfA that an admin candidate show skill and dedication as an editor; indeed, being given the mop and bucket is seen as a reward for good work. This strikes me as the Peter principle at work; it's sort of like promoting the best carpenter in the crew to foreman. It's a position he may not be suited for, and as foreman, he's no longer swinging a hammer. Many users who are given the mop and bucket find little time to pick up the pen and quill. Some excellent writers and researchers may not be well-suited to using the admin tools properly, and regard (contrary to policy) their admin priveleges as a means to resolve content disputes. Unfortunately, Wikipedia has few other means (other than throwaway recognitions like barnstars and such) to reward good work on the content-generation side of the ledger.

Where I work (I'm a software engineer), there are two promotion paths for technical workers--into management (either of people or of projects, and then later of businesses), and into technical leadership roles (architects and the like). Perhaps Wikipedia should develop an editorial leadership hierarchy--of associate editors, senior editors (roughly equivalent to admins and bureaucrats); these people wouldn't have the technical access of admins (no power to block users, for example), but could exercise influence over the content of the encyclopedia. Some powers might be removed from the current administrative path. At work, I personally have little interest in management; I have lots of interest in the technical path. Here on Wikipedia, I've little interest in becoming an admin; I'd be more interested in an editorial promotion path. If the German experiment succeeds, the ability to mark trusted versions of pages could be one of those abilities delegated to recognized editors.


--EngineerScotty 18:29, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

I didn't know of the German experiment before. That sound interesting. Don't like the idea of 'hierarchies'. Think of it like the Christian church. You are either saved, or not. To be saved, you just have to do the right sort of things. (This is just a metaphor, I don't mean that everyone in WP become Christians). Thanks for those comments. Dbuckner 18:56, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
I'd be careful of the religious metaphor; for one thing it's not very accurate.  :) Some Christian demoninations, like Roman Catholicism, complicate the heaven/hell dichotomy somewhat with things like purgatory. Plus, nobody knows who is truly saved and who isn't (in Christian doctrine) other than God; though that doesn't stop others offering predictions for whole swaths of people based on superficial characterstics.
An analogy I prefer is music. A solo perform does not have any need for a conductor or someone else to direct him or her. Many small ensembles, such as rock bands or string quartets, are capable of self-organizing and self-directing in a performance; often a particular musician in the ensemble (the drummer or the first violinst) leads the others. A symphony orchestra, on the other hand, is led by a conductor whose purpose is to lead the others. And a large marching band, whether performing while marching or stationary, has numerous conductors, section leaders, drum majors, etc.--some of whom conduct a section of musicians while watching the lead of a superior conductor. Larger ensembles need more elaborate direction schemes.
--EngineerScotty 21:59, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
A feature called stable versions has been promised to be available "in months" (I do remember the same promise two years ago as well). It it gets implemented correctly and used it has chance top turn WP into self-improving source of informations, instead of current randomness. Pavel Vozenilek 18:50, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
You can't have your cake and eat it too As long as there remains a majority of Wikipedians that insist that every topic should remain open to be edited anyone with out any controls nobody will want to waste their time making good one, or if they do (as most of us who are leaving have) and find that it is trashed two months latter won't likely bother again. If Wikipedia is serious about attracting and keeping expert contributors, (although my own personal suspicion is that everyone is just playing lip-service to the idea) some kind of accommodation to these very real complaints. Accommodation beyond telling us we are cop-outs. Most of us have put in a wast amount of time and material in this project, we have been complaining for years via the 'proper channels' and tried to work within the system. This 'rebellion' is the result of being fed-up with being handed back ideological shibboleths for our troubles. Now we are voting with our feet. --DV8 2XL 20:40, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
It's often hard to tell what a majority of Wikipedians think on a given matter. Many are strict expodeians who don't ever participate in votes (whether content related like AfD or administrative matters like RfA), metadiscussions, and the like, and may not be aware of other parts of the Wikipedia elephant. Quite a few users work on subjects (some of them derided as "cruft") in which academics or professionals are not likely to participate in. Conversely, some Wikipedians (and ex-Wikipedians) are very vocal as to what they want, and are often heard in discussions such as this one. I've certainly observed numerous Wikipedians who I consider to be cranks busily defending their "right" to do so; I think that the number of users who advocate a position of strict egalitarianism is smaller, as a percentage of the whole, than it might appear.
In many ways, Wikipedia is a microcosm of society itself, politics in particular. Some scientists are better able to navigate political waters than others, where the ship of research must take care to avoid the rocks of those who may find scholarly results contrary to their interests, along with the enabling condition of popular apathy and/or resentment. In real life, you have corporate polluters and such denigrating research on the greenhouse effect and global warming, creationists attacking evolutionary biology, and quacks of all sort accusing the medical establishment of vast incompetence and conspiracy. Many of these characters (plus a few sorts that don't play in the political arena) show up on Wikipedia too.
In politics, though, the price of (representative) democracy is probably worth it; as the alternatives have all proven themselves worse. Wikipedia is a different matter. For one thing, the encyclopedia is only an egalitarian experiment for as long as Jimbo Wales and the WMF say it is; they can pull the plug or change the rules at their leisure. (The GFDL does give the community some recourse should that occur). For another--we're writing an encyclopedia here. This is a professional endeavor, and if someone doesn't behave in a professional manner, I've little problem with telling them to hit the highway. That doesn't mean that we should necessarily transform Wikipedia into NuPedia, or Digital Universe, but the creation of an encyclopedia should be the goal, not the creation of a community. One encouraging thing is that Jimbo, although rather conservative and resistant to change, has in the past supported (and even imposed) changes when apparent. It will be interesting to see how Wikipedia evolves over the coming months and years.
--EngineerScotty 21:30, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
Answering to DV8 2XL: The aim of WP is to provide relevant and valid information. Being freely open is one way to do it, not a panacea. My opinion is that the stable version are not yet implemented because the developers are trying to catch up with the exponential growth of user base, not because of inherent distrust to experts. I would not be here otherwise. Pavel Vozenilek 21:51, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Please note that a stable version system is currently undergoing a test: Wikipedia:Article_revisions_for_approval. We didn't even have to wait for the developers... JesseW, the juggling janitor 22:31, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Actually I'm leaving as well[edit]

The last straw can be seen in my entry for today in Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Philosophy. As I said there, I really do have much better things to do than this. Any hope of achieving anything here is impossible. Thanks for all the comments on this page. My reason for departure has NOTHING to do with anything here. Dbuckner 07:12, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Left a little message on User_talk:Jimbo_Wales. Dbuckner 07:40, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Fare-thee-well DB and thanks. There really is no hope for this place. DV8 2XL 16:04, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Page move[edit]

Since User:Dbuckner has indicated that he is leaving Wikipedia, and to centralize the discussion, I have (with his permission) moved these pages (both project page and talk page) to the Wikipedia namespace.

--EngineerScotty 19:12, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

  • To that end, the project page content has been rewritten in the third person. --EngineerScotty 19:16, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Related wikispace discussion of solutions?[edit]

User:Electrawn has moved my work to Wikipedia:Expert Retention, in an attempt to hopefully get more input and more work on refining down to real solutions. These two articles really work in tandem. Not quite sure on the best means to work on this would be, but work should probably be co-ordinated. LinaMishima 20:38, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Light one candle[edit]

It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. - Chinese proverb

I've created a Wikipedia essay that summarizes the things I wish I had known when I joined the project. As a new editor I stepped into a hornet's nest of troublesome editors at Joan of Arc. It's a featured article and a CD selection now, but it was far from that a year ago.[3] At the risk of making an inappropriate pun, the experience was a trial by fire. Maybe the page will help some other editors overcome problems and improve articles. Durova 16:22, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Best of luck[edit]

See my page.

One crank drives out two experts - do you think we have a problem yet? --DV8 2XL 04:22, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Leave this page here[edit]

I don't want to contribute to a expert retention page. I want to contribute to an expert rebellion page! Olin 12:40, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

What makes one an "expert"?[edit]

I'm looking at User:WCityMike's or User:DV8 2XL's or User:Ste. Anne's parting messages, and it's not really clear to me why they should be considered "experts". What are the inclusion criteria for being listed on this page? Kaustuv Chaudhuri 13:28, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

this page shouldn't be about experts, or educated users in general, walking away in disgust and frustration. The title is "rebellion" after all. It should be about editors with expertise telling the community that they are getting fed up with Wikipedia:Anti-elitism and demand that effective measures are taken to finally enforce WP:ENC, WP:RS and WP:BATTLEGROUND. The policies are all there, what we need are admins with good judgement enforcing them. --dab (𒁳) 19:18, 17 April 2009 (UTC)