Wikipedia talk:Expert retention/Archive 1

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Expert retention and edit creep[edit]

I must agree with many of the dynamics outlined in this article. Edit creep in particular is a subject that probably deserves its own essay. That said, I find it hard to support the proposal of locking featured articles. The perfect article does not exist and even seemingly staid and stable topics ought to remain open to editing. At Joan of Arc, for instance, a team of forensic scientists is near the conclusion of a study to determine possible authenticity of her purported remains. When their conclusions become available it should be possible to update the article without administrator intervention. Anyone who has moderate experience as an editor can check a current FA against the version that passed FAC. I know that crank vandalism can be hard to dethread - I've dealt with that myself - but better and earlier application of Wikipedia's dispute resolution process should deal with many cases. Many nonexperts simply don't realize when they've overstepped the boundaries between normal and fringe opinion and will bow to community feedback - specifically outside opinions by editors who are not already party to a dispute. Durova 19:43, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

You can't have your cake and eat it too This is why I cannot see any progress being made on the issues at hand and why competent editors will continue to leave. 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 20:37, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
So are you saying that there should be topics which shouldn't remain open to be edited by everyone? Not only does that go agains the Wikipedia ethos, but how are we going to determine who edits what, and who will do it? I understand your concern, but it seems that some people want Wikipedia to make special considerations for them just because they're experts, and just because they're experts (which is unverifiable) and doesn't mean they wont push their own agenda --Atb129 20:45, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps Atb you should read what I posted on the front page, I went into detail how the system would work.
Second "experts' gain nothing from working on this project. Wales and others say they want to attract and keep expert contributors - when we do we are told that we shouldn't expect to have our knowledge carry any more value than that of a teenage wannabe who demonstrably doesn't know what he is writing about. Well guess what? We got to be experts BECAUSE we know our subjects well, and that holds just as much to a comic book collector who has been active in that field for most of his life as it does to a PhD in chemistry. Don't want us, and we will go, and we will tell or colleagues not to bother, if Wikipedians would rather salve their flimsy little egos by pretending that they can build a serious encyclopedia without the help of those in the fields that are being covered - good luck. DV8 2XL 22:49, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
Sorry if you misunderstood me - I think some reforms need to be implemented, and I do think experts leaving is a problem that should be addressed. And I don't doubt that the vast majority of experts with concerns mean well. My concern is that some experts seem to think that they should automatically be elevated to a higher level based just on their credentials, and while perhaps some sort of point system is necessary, it could create a tiered social system (which would discourage lots of participation), and of course experts are just as susceptable as the rest of us to writing POV or original research, and we all have an agenda to push, even experts. Sorry if that was a little incoherent, and I hope you resolve your problems, --Atb129 00:47, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Some experts think that they should automatically be elevated to a higher level based on their credentials BECAUSE, in our area of expertise, we are on a higher level. How presumptiuous of you all to call for expert help and then demand that we not consider our work superior to the efforts of those who by admission know less about the subject than we do. "Please come and help but don't make us feel inferior to you by being right, just because you know more than us." Please, take the red pill. DV8 2XL 01:32, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
This is on the thin edge of WP:CIVIL. One problem with this proposal is that its definition of an expert is nearly impossible to verify. Must every user who claims a Ph.D. be honored as if they have one? I'd suggest a more practical definition. Suppose an editor contributes 10 or more line citations to an article version that passes WP:FAC (or WP:GAC, WP:FLC, WP:FAR, WP:GAR). That demonstrates a certain level of knowledge, dedication, scholarship, and quality review: that editor can probably detect subtle examples of edit creep to a particular page. I'm not certain how Wikipedia would acknowledge such people or whether it would be wise to do so. The probable downside is that some would try to exploit their expertise as if it were a license to violate site policy. Durova 13:49, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Experts should be identified primarily through their actual achievements in their field of expertise, such as a verifiable academic and/or professional record. This is the preferred method in real life whenever one expects quality work to be done, and I can't see a reason why those rules should be different on line. If you have a bridge to build, you hire engineers and architects with a good and verifiable record in bridge construction, not a random person who claims to know about bridges, or has some interest in bridges, or has been spotted once crossing a bridge. Knowledge isn't just some abstract concept made of thin air: it has roots in the real world. --Gilles Tran 14:47, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
And how exactly would we verify such qualifications? Durova 16:35, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
How do you do that in real life? Same thing. If one is really an expert, his/her name is going to pop up in the many places where his/her expertise has been both needed and proven. There is no such thing as an instant expert with no track record, at least not on topics known to require training and experience.--Gilles Tran 17:44, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Experts are identified by the quality of their work. It has been said elsewhere in this debate that 'expert' in this context means competent/knowledgeable NOT credentialed/professional, it's an important distinction. I do not support any system of verification via real-word identities for a number of reasons, not the least of which I could not participate here without the permission of my employer if I was using my real name, and have each and every submission approved before posting. DV8 2XL 17:01, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
I'm curious: Is that because you are posting from work, or does your employer demand this with regards with anything you write/publish, whether work-related or not? Does your employer have a particular issue with Wikipedia, or is this simply a matter of them believing that they own your mental talents? I would think that non-research activities (which, per WP:NOR, ought to include any Wikipedia edits), shouldn't be an issue; but then again, I'm not your boss. --EngineerScotty 17:12, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Unless we're talking about the "List of Buffy episodes" sort of articles (that for sure anyone can edit), "competent/knowledgeable" cannot be separated from "credentialed/professional". We're talking expertise here, and that's a little bit more than simple knowledge. How can you assess that someone is truly an expert if this hasn't been proved in the real world by verifiable actions? I had a meeting about a technical book project this very morning, and we're not going to pick up our writers at random: they'll be people who are already well-known in that field, with lots of peer-reviewed articles, books, projects etc. under their belts. We want the book to be good, and we want our readers to trust us. I can understand employer/employee or privacy issues but they're irrelevant here. If we're talking work of publishable, expert quality, it cannot be anonymous. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, as a consumer of information, anonymity is a real problem. We don't see many anonymously written science or technical books. --Gilles Tran 17:44, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Scotty, it's a general condition in my contract, no publication without preclearance, legal told me the best thing was to use a screen name, so that's what I do.
Gilles the bulk of Wikipedia is topics that have no "credentialed/professional" members. The whole issue of verification alone would be too much bureaucratic overhead as well as being fraught with definition issues. I probably don't have to mention to most of you of the risks of having edit wars turn into academic pissing contests, because we all know how fast that can happen DV8 2XL 18:20, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
I agree that expertise is not needed everywhere, that's one of the joys of Wikipedia. However, the main reason of my participation in this discussion is that there are a few articles related to my profession that are in dire need of attention. They're stubs, with poorly-written, incomplete and inaccurate content. Having them rewritten by experts of the field would be great. I've thought of asking my colleagues - who have written articles for paper encyclopedias - to do that, and I could do it myself. But the idea of spending 3-4 days writing a comprehensive, well-thought, well-researched, well-written article only to have the "hahaha urgay penis" crowd, or the "be bold" one, or the crank/POV-pushing one ruin one's work in a matter of seconds, well this idea is just not appealing to many experts, who have better things to do with their time (like acquiring more expertise or sharing it with people who actually value it). This page is called Expert retention, but attracting experts is perhaps a greater issue, and until there's a mechanism that 1) recognises expertise and 2) protects experts' work, I can't see much progress here. Bureaucratic overhead? I'm not so sure. Not only a good expert can have his/her credentials examined and validated quite easily (because they're available from reliable sources), but there would be less need for patrolling, arbitration and other things that make life complicated on Wikipedia. True, academics have pissing contests, but unless they engage in name-calling, a heated discussion between academics can at least make sense, unlike a shouting match between an expert and a pack of cranks. --Gilles Tran 20:05, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Gilles I agree with you in general, but any changes proposed here will have to work with in the system and verification, indeed officially identifying someone as an expert will not fly. Not at this time. --DV8 2XL 21:43, 6 September 2006 (UTC)


Any resolution to the problem is likely to involve a means of identity management. The existence of sock puppets and meat puppets precludes the current system. One alternative is to use a system of karma like slashdot. This would provide a measure of how real people are. Karma would build with non-reverted edits and decrease with reverted edits, while IP address users would always have negative karma. The size of each edit could also be used in the formula.

Once an identity measure is established then preferential powers for some users could be implemented, yet still adhere to the principle that 'anyone can edit'. One power could be a temporary page clamp, perhaps against users with less karma for a short time or or a particular crank with less karma for a longer time. This would need to use up karma so the power can't be overused.

derrick 01:56, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Close off editing to some sections[edit]

Annon comment moved from front page DV8 2XL 15:12, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

I have experienced some of the frustration with editing described above, but I am consoled by the knowledge that eventually Wikipedia will have to limit the ability to change some text. When that time arrives, then I am anticipating that the administrators will review the history of the article and add back the important topics that were well researched but lost in the editing street fights. Then some sections of an article will be frozen in time, and others will remain changeable. It's the work that goes into the debate that will benefit the eventually uneditable sections of the articles, and there will still be plenty of opportunity to play cranks vs. pinheads on the other sections.

Moved my response to this to the bottom to emphasize. Ninja Joey 04:45, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

See also[edit]

Wikipedia:Expert rebellion, which ploughs much of the same ground. Perhaps the two pages ought to merge.

--EngineerScotty 21:32, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

You had me until you bashed people who believe in Intelligent design. Maybe if you were less abrasive you would get support, you certainly wont get mine now. Judgesurreal777 21:32, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
Just to be certain; the page referenced above is not "mine"--don't let my opinions on that topic dissuade you.
That said, this particular topic is going to attract lots of people who have extremely low opinions of creationism/creation science/ID; and who are much less charitable to the topic than I. I don't believe in CS/ID, if it isn't obvious already; but I consider these to be encyclopedic and notable subjects which deserve a fair treatment in Wikipedia. Many scientists and experts who are the subject of these pages, consider CS/ID to be complete nonsense which has no place in Wikipedia (other than to dismiss it in passing as pseudoscience). Just as some consider religious scripture the only true source of knowledge, many scientists consider the scientific method to be the only valid epistomology, and reject WP:NPOV as invalid when scientific opinion comes into conflict with popular, religious, or politically-motiviated viewpoints; believing that science should prevail in all cases. My comments in Wikipedia:Expert rebellion were not intended towards ID proponents as a group; but the subset thereof who frequently engage in POV edits to topics such as evolution, attempting to wage ideological battle there. And certainly, there are those POV warriors who seek to expunge CS/ID from Wikipedia, and are just as obnoxious. Based on your edit history, you seem to be a good Wikipedia contributor, and not a POV-pusher; I certainly encourage you to stick around and participate. (Though again, the matter is not for me to decide). --EngineerScotty 16:29, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
The original edit of this page was to create a guideline on why to stay, not give soapboaxes to people on why they are leaving. Electrawn 22:50, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
The point isn't to give people soapboxes, but--like here--document the issues. Certainly, some of the "why I'm outta here" essays penned by some experts (and/or those claiming to be experts) are little more than self-indulgent rants about how some plebe inserted a serial comma into their exquisite prose, and/or confusion of consensus scientific opinion on a topic with the expert's personal conjecture or belief--but they, as a group, have legitimate gripes. They often also have few hours to spend on editing Wikipedia, so leaving is often an easier option. --EngineerScotty 14:48, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Vandalism is one thing, expert abuse another[edit]

In the interests of keeping my sanity, I've decided to leave vandalism to be fixed by others. It's dispiriting, all this tagging, and the resistance to dealing with it sends the same sort of message as when the landlord doesn't clean the graffiti off the building. And it's particularly dispiriting when there seems to be evidence that one entirely reasonable little change to the whole setup would improve matters greatly. But in the meantime I'll let those who enjoy ferreting out vandalism take up the slack.

What really galls me, though, is the attitude here of disrespect for expertise. Experts have earned their arrogance and the rest of us haven't. It's quite unreasonable to expect any good article to be written by someone with a personality disorder, but that's what it takes to shrug off the attacks in defense of the "if you can't stand the heat" attitude. At least the cranks have some interest in the matter, however warped. Mangoe 03:24, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Opinion: Abuse is abuse -- period. It is harmful, period. Now, whereas one might very well argue that the cost to the Wikipedia project for allowing or turning a blind eye to "expert abuse" is higher than "non-expert abuse" -- this goes to cost-benefit analysis, not Right-to-Arrogance. It sounds painfully clinical and dispassionate to say it this way, but the long and short of it in my opinion is that the cost to the Wikipedia increases when experts are abused but the cost to society and the abused individual are invariant regardless of whom is abused. If one opens the door to allowing the abuse of non-experts, but not allowing the abuse of experts (because it costs the project too much to allow), one opens all kinds of nasty implications about teleological ethics. Can the ends be allowed to justify the (permissible) means? Yuck. -- QTJ 19:52, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Leaving or fighting?[edit]

I understand the frustration and hopelessness that makes people leave, but I would ask you not to throw in the towel quite yet. If there is any chance that the issues that plague WP will be addressed, it'll be because experts and neutral, valuable editors like you will voice their opinion.

Don't waste you time on editing anymore. That definitely seems quite pointless at this moment (at least in controversial articles), but put your effort elsewhere. Go into policy-making, document the issues that you see as the main problem, but don't just give up altogether!
(I myself have stopped editing a while ago, but I retain my motivation and sanity by watching and logging some cases of blatant "POV-Creep". That way, the worse an article gets, the better it is for my argument. I can actually get a kind of perverse satisfaction from seeing it slowly deteriorate, because I know that in the long run being able to show the effects of free-for-all editing is worth more than fighting short-term edit-wars.)

WP is still a great idea (and it doesn't really have any viable competition). Despite all its shortcomings it's still the best thing around. But don't just hand it over to the cranks and fanatics. They would like nothing more than that, and they will run this whole thing into the ground in no time at all. Log the problems, collect proof, find out how decisions are made - and then get political!

I'm sure the founders are not in it for the money. And I'm also sure their goal is not to just have a larger "Bag full'o trivia". They may still assume good faith, even after most editors in the trenches have given up that concept long ago. But it is up to us to show them that the current editing philosophies don't work anymore. And, going by the recent experiment with the German Wikipedia, they do seem to be open to changes.

Most of you are scientists. So treat this like a scientific challenge. Collect your data, document your results, and then write your paper. And just because the enemy (the cranks et al) isn't cooperating, that doesn't mean that you should give up. Do you stop the fight against diseases just because the viruses aren't playing "fair"? Same thing with the viruses and parasites here. They're not playing fair either. And, yes, it looks like they are winning the current battles. But that doesn't mean that if we get together and create a convincing case against them, that we wouldn't be able to win the war after all... --Frescard 04:37, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Of course that is why I'm still posting to these pages, (on expert issues) but look at the exchange at the top of this page. The fact is that many non-experts, who are not necessarily disruptive, will see this as a power-grab, or the attempt to create a cast system, in which they will find themselves demoted to lesser status. Thus I doubt that the necessary changes will come from any bottom-up process; it is going to have to happen as a matter of executive fiat. When it becomes apparent outside the Wiki that competent editors are giving up in significant numbers, and that this is having a deleterious effect on the reliability and quality of the articles, will pressure build for Wales to act. DV8 2XL 12:21, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Are you referring to my post and implying that I am a nonexpert who fears losing rank in a caste system? It's not quite that simple. I've raised three pages to featured status, two of which I also started, and I sincerely wish these pages had the help of people whose knowledge is as good or better than my own. I have also squandered many hours combatting the very dynamics that this proposal attempts to address. While I sympathize with the aims, I also doubt whether this would solve more problems than it causes. To paraphrase Ambrose Bierce, this may be a question of replacing existing evils with new ones. Durova 14:09, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
There's also the problem that the standard of "convincing case" simply begs the question. Who is it worthwhile to convince? In normal, reasonable reality, it would be necessary convince only the experts. And for every Alfred Wegener, there are probably several thousand learned fools and undereducated bright boys and obsessive cranks whom the experts dismiss with well-deserved prejudice. At the moment it appears that, all too often, the Wikipedia control structures create a culture in which the people who must be convinced ARE the learned fools and undereducated bright boys and obsessive cranks, and while some of these people can be made to see reason, some of them the simply can't, and in any case Eternal September means an endless supply of people with no commitment to what shreds of wikipedia culture exist, all of whom have to be brought into line.
Right now it seems that it is possible to create reasonable articles, even by non-experts, as long as the writers are literate and the subject doesn't set anyone off. An article subject with any established body of cranks is impossible to maintain in a steadily sound state. Mangoe 13:07, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Durova it is that simple, egos are going to get in the way of any solution. If you look on the front page of this article, you will see that I proposed three things: drop some rules that are being misused by disruptive editors, expand the arbitration committee, and protect featured article from casual editing. What I have gotten back here and elsewhere is doctrinaire rhetoric about egalitarianism and wiki ideals from people who sound threatened.
At any rate as I said it's not a question of convincing you and others like you, in the end these changes will happen because this project will become a disaster like Usenet if they don't. You may not remember when that service was populated with more competent users, and how the beggars and trolls and marketeers drove them out. I do, and I have to tell you the end comes quickly once it starts. The leadership has to make these changes for the good of the project or we all are going to lose the effort we've put in. --DV8 2XL 14:44, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
It's as inadvisable to speculate about the my online experience as it was to guess about my frame of mind: I actually sent my first e-mail while Jimmy Carter was president. This makes it difficult to respect the doomsday prediction. I've contributed to this page in a thoughtful manner, yet what I see in response are straw man simplifications, ad hominem speculations, and borderline personal attacks - all of which reinforce my concern that organized efforts to identify and retain expert contributors may inadvertently cultivate a set of editors who misuse expertise as an excuse to flout site policy. While I'm no dogmatic populist and have personally confronted many of the frustrations expressed in this proposal, constructive feedback appears to be unwelcome (one of the contributors even hints twice that I failed to read the proposal). Well I have read it: have you read Wikipedia:Civility and Wikipedia:Instruction creep? You've lost my goodwill. Durova 17:21, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
I never really had it in the first place now did I? --DV8 2XL 18:32, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
The only way we differed yesterday was about the best way to solve the problem. I wish you well in the goal of attracting and retaining more good editors and in the related goals of minimizing cranks and vandalism. This discussion ought to be about identifying and retaining expert editors. However, I dislike a conversation in which a person who does not know me sidetracks into a series of unflattering and mistaken guesses about my experience, motives, and intentions. Having expressed that dislike twice, and having received more objectionable comments in response, there appears to be no possibility of productive dialogue. Durova 20:42, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
The other side of the WP:CIVIL and WP:NPA coin is, of course, WP:AGF--in this case, don't assume attack or bad intent where it isn't manifest. So far, this page seems to be populated with reasonable folks; let's keep things on a professional and not a personal level.
At any rate, the observation that many users who aren't experts in some topic might feel threatened by a significant change in Wikipedia policy designed to attract experts--is almost certainly true. Certainly the cranks might be threatened (though they in many cases violate existing policy; a good case can be made that inadequate enforcement is the problem). And a case can also be made that--I'll be blunt here--some experts are utter pricks. Not all, certainly; and one should distinguish between being blunt and being rude--the latter is not acceptable in Wikipedia, the former doesn't bother me as much. But many users do feel threatened.
Many of us, in our educational careers, encountered professors who were insufferable boors in the classroom (even though they were inspiring geniuses in the laboratory). Some of this is due to pedagogical schools of thought which state that the best way to educate undergraduates is to terrorize the hell of out 'em, drive off those who aren't serious, and then re-shape the quivering masses of those who remain into educated students/professionals, identifying the one or two students in each class who may have a brilliant research career. In educational or professional environments, where people agree to submit to authority in order to receive some benefit (an education, a salary); this can work. In Wikipedia, where we are all volunteers, bad attitutes--by anybody--are destructive.
But some of it is due to authority figures with personality flaws, who have trouble functioning in environments where there aren't clear deliniations of rank, and become abusive in situations where they find themselves in a superior position. Regardless of expertese or credentials; I'm not sure Wikipedia needs the help of poisonous personalities such as these.
--EngineerScotty 17:38, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Removed section[edit]

No editor has the right to block anyone else from posting or to have a policy of deleting submissions on sight because they come from one sort of person or another. This conversation will get us nowhere and only be held up as proof of expert high-handedness at the least or Admin action at worst --DV8 2XL 18:47, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

You may disagree with my proposal, but I don't think the appropriate reaction is to unilaterally delete it altogether, so that nobody else will be able to see it, or comment on it.
Great. Now we're having edit-wars on a project that is supposed to fight this very behaviour... --Frescard 19:22, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
One deletion doesn't an edit war make.  :) At any rate--if it's Wikipedia policy that wikiprojects and other organized efforts may not exclude people, we shouldn't be proposing otherwise. I've no idea what the correct policy WRT this is. --EngineerScotty 19:46, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Ya It's a policy issue, and I wanted to get rid of it before it drew too much attention. I don't like doing that sort of thing, but as I at least, am being accused of elitism already I didn't want to draw any negative attention to our page. Speed over consensus was the safest action; it could always be put back. --DV8 2XL 20:05, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Other ways experts can help Wikipedia[edit]

Here's a section which might be worth adding to the page; some wordsmithing and further suggestions may be needed.

Some experts may find it impossible to contribute directly to Wikipedia, or may choose not to for various reasons, including those outlined in this article. Experts who are unable or unwilling to contribute content to the encyclopedia can assist it in other ways:

  • Participate in talk pages; suggesting improvements. Recommend literature; advise us on which sources are not reliable.
  • Do what you normally do in the course of your professional activities. Teach. Advise. Mentor students, graduate and undergraduate alike. Write. Publish. Participate in peer review. Speak. Conduct research. Supervise research. Invent. Design. All these activities either add to the body of human knowledge, and/or the count of persons who are knowledgeable; indeed, these activities may be the best use of your time and skills. Anybody can contribute meaningfully to Wikipedia and document the knowledge of mankind; the number of people who can meaningfully expand it is far smaller.
    • In particular, write good secondary sources. In many disciplines, there is a wide gulf in quality, completeness, timeliness, and accuracy between the primary sources (which may be difficult for the layperson to grasp, as they often require in-depth knowledge of the field to understand), and the secondary sources, which provide both depth and breadth into a field of study, and are more suitable for teaching. In some disciplines, the gulf between the two can be measured in decades. Good secondary sources don't have to be full textbooks; short introductory articles on specific topics, lecture notes, and other materials may be invaluable in assisting us with development of a tertiary source such as Wikipedia.
  • Please understand what we are trying to do, and what our mission is. Please remember that there are numerous good, conscientious editors here.
  • add your suggestion here

--EngineerScotty 19:14, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

This seems like it would be great to put on the page, and publicize widely. I really like the point distinguishing documenting human knowledge (what Wikipedia is doing) and creating human knownledge (what knowledgable experts can hopefully do). JesseW, the juggling janitor 03:12, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Is this part of a wider problem?[edit]

This essay raises a number of issues that invite a response from a veteran contributor (like me ;), but I'm going to focus on just one here: editor burnout.

I'm interested in this phenomena because I've contributed to Wikipedia for almost four years now, & I'm curious to know just how much of my perceptions & how much of my own career with project are similar to other participants. My original focus was on a number of articles that could be considered "crank-magnets": these included King Arthur & a number of Christianity-related articles. In those days, the quality of the material in Wikipedia was admittedly unsatisfactory, but I worked with the assumption that if I could start these articles with better quality information, then it would be harder for them to devolve into garbage.

What I encountered was that fighting cranks is exhausting -- whether you are an expert with decades of experience & an imposing title, or a simple amateur whose hope is to create articles that meet the qualifications of professionals in the field. Part of the problem is that the odder the belief, the more fanatic the crank's belief in it, but a good chunk of the problem is the stress from the effort to assume good faith in the other individual because the material deserves it; that person may be espousing a legitimate point of view that deserves inclusion in Wikipedia -- however she/he is going about it all wrong. Perhaps this is my own weakness, but after a few encounters with individuals I considered cranks -- I lost much of my enthusiasm for tackling these "crank-magnets". (My last struggle involved Celtic Christianity, which attracts a number of individuals who have an idealized -- & unsubstantiated -- view of what these early Christians believed. I ended up walking away from this dispute for lack of a successful strategy for dealing with it.)

And yet, I still enjoyed writing & knowing that whatever I wrote was being read, so I looked for a corner of Wikipedia I could work on without this level of conflict -- which is why I have been working on Ethiopia-related articles. I suspect that if I encountered these cranks, kooks & other troublemakers in a field I was a recognized expert in, & made a good living from, I would conclude that my time would be better spent somewhere else & leave -- as have the editors listed in the article.

The point of telling my own story is that I believe I've seen it duplicated by other editors. I've noticed -- & have been surprised to see -- that editors to Wikipedia tend to follow a fairly predictable cycle: initial discovery & an increasing number of edits, increasing involvement in the policy side of Wikipedia (become an Admin, subscribe to one or more of the mailing lists, volunteer to help with the Foundation), then a gradual disengagement in Wikipedia in the form of reduced visibility &/or fewer edits. While I base this on my own subjective impressions, I can point to some undeniably troubling datapoints:

  • Compare the names of people who posted to EN-Wikipedia in January 2003 with those who posted in January 2006: there is a massive turnover in participants between those two periods. This is one of the fora that serious participants to en.wikipedia could be expected to participate in. (When I first noticed this, I was frankly shocked.)
  • Another fora serious Wikipedians could be expected to participate in is WP:AN/I. Compare the names of participants during any two months at least a year apart, & I expect you'll see a similar high turnover. (I just compared an older page from a year ago with today's, & found it was about the same ratio.)

Then again, I'm not the first to point this out. Perhaps the most depressing statement of this dynamic was made by Dbachmann, (sorry, after a lot of searching I can't find the original quotation) who wrote that it was the nature of Wikipedia to burn through editors. I think its clear we need to focus on editor retention. -- llywrch 20:16, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Of course it is part of the wider issue of editor burnout in some instances, but also in the case of some experts they have been given such a poor welcome (because the were experts) that they have left in weeks, generally without saying why. Only those who were privy to the events saw it happen. There is a constituency of Wikipedians who take deep offence to any suggestion of expertise, and will make it hot for those that come, and tedious for those who stick around for awhile. --DV8 2XL 20:38, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

I've had some similar thoughts: that the issue of expert retention is the canary in the coal mine; and that we need to be focusing on ways to properly ventilate the mine, rather than wondering how to coax the canaries back into a toxic atmosphere. Some of the expert complaints I've read come from experts who come across as cranks themselves. Many of the rest seem to be largely the same issues which plague other editors--vandalism, POV-pushers, crackpot editors, edit wars, and excessive rear-guard action rather than new content creation. Perhaps we should focus on ways to make this a better place for all serious editors, experts and laypersons--and if we can manage that, then we won't have to worry about expert retention.--EngineerScotty 21:29, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

On the general burnout theme, surely it isn't much different from any web forum/posting/interactivity type site? People find something new, devote a lot of time to it, drift off. I've seen it a lot on internet forums, peaople come people go. Likewise experts come experts go, just like everyone else. From a personal standpoint I have found very little hostility to my expertness (in seabirds and conservation biology), what little I have has been diffused with endless discussions. I certainly burn out from time to time and leave for a while, then come back energised for more editing. Sabine's Sunbird talk 04:45, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

OK, let me try a different angle: mission priorities[edit]

Part of what I'm seeing in the discussion here is the tension between what ought be the ultimate mission and what are principles about how to get there. The mission ought to be to write a "good" encyclopedia, with all that objectively implies. In terms of expertise, it means any given article should be acceptable to J. Random Expert in the appropriate field.

What seems to have happened is that this has in practice been subsumed to the methodology. We are now only writing "the best encyclopedia that can be written by an undisciplinable band of amateurs, and if the result isn't that good, that's OK." One symptom of this is the various remarks about experts who are jerks, and who therefore can presumably be dispensed with. If I were trying to write a good encyclopedia, my management would be directed at enabling the work of those jerks at the expense of less expert people (and especially utter novices and cranks)-- within reason of course. In practice (except maybe in one specific and in its way highly problematic area) the only "experts" I've had problems with are the experts in wikipedia culture. That culture's only justification for existence, however, is to write the encyclopedia. Anything about that culture which interferes with that is something that should be considered for removal.

Besides the issues of article graffiti (a better word, I think, than vandalism) and edit creep, the big problem documented in these complaints is that the wiki culture is tolerant of those who abuse the experts. Saying that the experts need to get thicker hides is not the answer; to say that is to value the culture of abusiveness over the mission. And when people start talking about their "rights", they are valuing culture over mission to the point of essentially admitting that they want to enable behavior that they know is bad.

I personally don't think the wiki community is going to resolve this, unless it is willing to give up being a community and take up the burden of being a purpose-driven organization. My opinion only, of course. Mangoe 21:22, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Mango, you have hit the nail several times on the head. I too am sick and tired of all the claptrap about "community.' --DV8 2XL 21:33, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

To quote WP:NOT

This policy in a nutshell:
Wikipedia is first and foremost an online encyclopedia and, as a means to that end, an online community of people interested in building a high-quality encyclopedia in a spirit of mutual respect. Please avoid the temptation to use Wikipedia for other purposes, or to treat it as something it is not.

Emphasis added by me.

In other words, the community aspect is important; but the encyclopedia aspect is paramount. Some forget that, I'll agree.--EngineerScotty 22:06, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Absolutely, IMO. While I consider myself a humane, compassionate, caring person -- I came to see if maybe I could contribute a few pieces in my area of expertise -- not to get a comfortable feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself. There's the odd drive-by-tweaking outside of my expertise (clean up here and there), but honestly, after reading through tons of discussion pages, I'm actually afraid to clean up a controversial piece even just to reorder "External links" and "See also" if they don't seem to be in the right spot, for fear of getting targeted by any number of forces seeing my QTJ in the history and haranguing me or canvassing me or ... whatever ... to the point of having to retreat. Every word I write, I end up asking, "Am I making myself target?" Do I ask myself those questions in any other context in which I've written content? Not really. Then why should I have to here?
"As an expert" -- if someone decides to play whack-the-content with me, I'll smile, stand back, and let them pee all over the wall, and I won't revert. Revert wars, bickering, yadda yadda. I'll boldly edit, sure, in my area of expertise, but if someone wants to go in and revert the whole slew -- I did what I could and the random act of reversion has spoken. And perhaps that's an attitude to take: WP:DSTSS. (Don't Sweat the Small Stuff)
Besides not being a "community" -- Wikipedia is not a religion. I ask myself if some of the "culture" that has evolved doesn't scare the "experts" away before they even get engaged enough to leave by simply never having come. Knowledge doesn't care about feelings, it doesn't care about kosher, and it doesn't care about fringe. It just is. Sure, if any large group of self-selecting editors are going to get along, some guidelines and rules will evolve, but WP:COMMON should kick in. There's no such thing as "cyberspace" and "meatspace". Behind every editor is a real person. If we never forget that, then we might ask what those real people are purportedly here to do: collectively write an encyclopedia. The sense of "belonging" just might be counter to the good of the endeavor, however. This place isn't a social club. It's the back channels of an online encyclopedia, in place to get that done, somehow, maybe.
Now, if I read an article like some of the articles I've read here somewhere like CACM -- I'd never read CACM again. It's not always just crankiness that gets in the way, but preaching in the main namespace. Ascribing motives to groups of people, for instance, "pseudomathematicians" as a whole, without any basis, rather than simply saying what pseudomathematics is giving an example of pseudomatematics, and moving on. Why the need to get into psycho-socio-posturing? These kinds of things would never make it past step one anywhere credible. As an inclusionist bordering on eventualist leanings, I think such articles have hope of evolving into something completely neutral and informative (such is the model of a wiki), but as someone with no desire to get into a battle, I'll back away the moment someone reverts. At that point I will have to ask myself which articles I can edit without wasting time. Somewhere in the history will be a record that I acted in good faith, and even if it never comes to the surface, I could always just link to an oldid and say, "I did what I could to help." Experts know their limitations -- you can't buck the system. But you can do what is within your power to try to contribute -- and let the chips fall where they will.
(Disclaimer: The one area outside my expertise I have politicked on briefly involves biographies of living people who are limited purpose public figures who do not wish to be listed in articles, and whose wishes are totally ignored by the collective. But that's outside the scope of this discussion page.)
Cheers. --QTJ 08:34, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

So, what to do?[edit]

Most of us are agreed, it seems, that there is a problem, though there is disagreement as to the scope and extent. Several things have been suggested:

Administrative solutions[edit]

Administrative solutions assume that much of the problem can be attributed to inappropriate user behavior (POV-pushing, vandalism, edit-warring); and attempt to improve Wikipedia by increasing it's ability to police itself, or reducing the editor pool. Some solutions I've seen here and elsewhere include:

  • Eliminate WP:IAR and WP:NBD; these are too easily abused.
    • - If not eliminated, they at least need some rephrasing. In particular the shibboleth "It is the nature of the wiki to be ever-changing" ought to go. Mangoe 03:20, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
      • What I think ought to be the intent of NBD is simply that the observation that the community (or the WMF) can act to reverse itself; much as legislatures can vote to overturn laws which they had passed previously. Until such action is taken, though, policy ought to be policy; NBD should not be an excuse to ignore policy nor to keep holding disruptive re-votes on things.
  • Expand the size, scope, and authority of the ArbCom, or creation of other similar bodies with punitive powers, so that abusive users can be more readily identified, disciplined, and/or banned if necessary.
  • End anonymous editing; require positive (and difficult-to-forge) identification so that banned editors cannot come back under yet another sockpuppet account.
    • - Anonymous editing should be eliminated if only to cut down on the vandalism level. Mangoe 03:20, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
  • Official recognition of expertese and/or expert credentials.
    • - This could be done simply by the arbitrators/admins etc. giving weight to credentials they know about. Mangoe 03:20, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
    • - In serious publication, ideally res ipsa loquitur (the thing [done] speaks for itself). Double blind refereeing is an example of this taken to its utmost. The referee in theory doesn't know the author, and the author doesn't know the referees. In very narrow fields, any competent referee of course knows the author: the field is so narrow and the research tracks so narrow that it's obvious who is doing the research. However, that said, credentials are not paraded in bylines. At least in computer science publication. The proper presentation of interesting new results is all that matters. Now, this is an attempt at an encyclopedia, but if one takes this to the nth degree: all that should matter is the article. The personalities behind the edits should not matter. If an editor cannot substantiate that a challenged claim has credible support in the literature, it matters not that he or she has 0 or 10 doctorates. If an editor does not to respond to a challenge when called, the claim remains unsubstantiated by the literature. In the case of potential conflicts of interest, however, if an editor does not disclose those, and it becomes an issue ... things get murky. Disclosure of credentials IMO is not as important as disclosure of potential COI. Credentials are trappings in some cases, interests go to AGF in some cases. -- QTJ 00:25, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
    • - In social sciences, it could be very hard to discard the influence of an editor on a text, even if (s)he is an expert. What is needed is a critical examination of sources. Soemthing that can't be left to only one person.--Daanschr 07:32, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
      • Here is where eventualism might be the safest mitigating factor against bias-creep. -- QTJ 16:20, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
  • Maybe we need to create a recognition program which goes beyond the monolithic "expert" tag. For instance, lots of people aren't PhD experts but they provide well-documented and very articulate content; they also monitor article and repel vandals. A recognition program could work with tokens, with an automated token production system. We could devise rules for the attribution of recognition tokens (how we get them, who can give them, what they mean). A metric could be the volume of text that a user creates, and which has not been deleted or replaced after N days. Example: I create 3 new pages and edit 17 articles, for a total of 600 words. After 30 days, 500 original words remain (as some of the content has been replaced, deleted or corrected by others). Let's say our metric is 1 token for 250 words; I get 2 tokens. However, these tokens are to be attributed to other wikipedians (I get the right to give them away, but they are of no use for me). So I have to carefully choose people I respect, and then I can give them these tokens. The life cycle would be linear: Create wiki content --> Wait 1 month --> Get tokens to be distributed --> Distribute tokens to people you admire. Tokens could be topic-flavored; for instance, if I get tokens in Physics I could only attribute them to people who are active editors in Physics. Since tokens are to be gained and then given once and only once, this won't create an "economic system" with perverse side effects such as inflation or a black market. The main effect of such a token system would be that active people who create relevant and good-quality content would have the power to recognize experts and send them a token of recognition. People who write bogus content wouldn't be able to get tokens because their content would be identified and deleted too quickly. Hugo Dufort 23:21, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

Editorial solutions[edit]

Editorial solutions vary the current policies on editing articles; currently, anybody may edit anything, and deviations to that (page protections) are only employed to combat things like vandalism and edit wars. Some solutions include:

  • Stable versions/trusted versions--delegate authority to mark specific revisions of articles as "stable" or "good" to users who can be trusted with the decision, coupled with the capability to retrieve articles so marked.
    • - At least (I know-- code solution) there needs to be a way for readers to set things so they see stable versions of pages. It would also be preferable to have that mode be what Google and other search engines see. Mangoe 03:23, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
  • All trusted editors (whether experts, admins, or others entrusted with the task) to restrict editing of articles.
  • Separation of content writing, content editing, and administrative functions on Wikipedia (adapting a model similar to how print publications operate)
  • Automatic page protection to feature articles. --EngineerScotty 22:08, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
    • It's high time this was implemented. I have seen so many well-written featured articles decompose into rubbish (Christmas for example has fluctuated wildly in quality since it was first promoted to featured article). There is a certain threshold of article quality at which any given new edit is more likely to hurt rather than help. At this point, the article should be protected and new edits proposed on the talk page. We do have over 1,000 admins now who can help with editing them when necessary. That's 1 admin for every featured article! Kaldari 23:39, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
    • I'd vote for that. A featured article should be absolutely frozen for 3 months (or so), then locked until there is a consensus that a revision is necessary. This would ensure a growing baseline of good-quality articles. Hugo Dufort


  • I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I fully understand a lot of the issues raised here. I think we should recognise expertise, but also agree that we can't go back to real world credentials, both because of privacy issues, and the fact that there will be many experts on many subjects with no real world credentials. This is either because the real world credentials don't exist for that subject (Pop Idol studies, anyone?), or because they are amateurs in the true sense of the word - doing something for the love of it. Credentials come from day jobs so if you're an amateur, you won't have the credentials, and it would be truly sad if people who become experts because they love something so much that they spend hours of their own time becoming experts are not recognised as such.
    • Maybe an external database of articles and citations should be used; special links to Citeseer entries (for example) could be used to give weight to Wikipedia articles. Another good scientific database is the University of Trier's DBLP Bibliography. Another is Springer Verlag, which has been publishing LNCS (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) for decades. I'm sure other authoritative databases exist in specific scientific domains. The main advantage of these external databases is that they are (1) stable, ie the content accumulates but is not changed or deleted, (2) perennial, ie they have existed for a long time and won't disappear or be moved tomorrow morning, and (3) respected, ie their content is recognized as correct and fairly complete. Links pointing to recognized external database entries should give a higher value to the corresponding wiki content (paragraph-wide and article-wide). These link types could be named DBLP-LINK, CITE-LINK, LNCS-LINK, etc. The "link value" should be calculated for each article or section by dividing the number of words in the article/section by the number of links (example: 300 words for 2 DBLP links and 1 Citeseer link would give "0.01". An article with no recognized link would get "0".) -- Hugo Dufort 23:21, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

I like the idea of building up "expert credentials" by the number of citations you add to articles. Not only is it an objective way of measuring expertise, it caters to amateurs, and would bring a real boost to the new focus on quality rather than quantity of articles. --Sepa 20:53, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

I'm not that convinced that the citation thing is the way to go. I spent quite a lot of time on a board I won't mention knocking down the nonsense that a 9-11 conspiracy crackpot kept posting (with an interlude in the middle for a masonic conspiracy among the founding fathers, and for the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury). Almost every response of the opposition had citations, generally multiple. Of course, the problem was that they were all from conspiracy-mongers. The internet amplifies crackpottery immensely; you might be able to restrain original crackpots and stray remarkers this way, but not the more common variety.
I think the only solution that has a hope of working is for the Wikipedia community to give up cherished (false) ideals about the equality of all contributors. Participants need to own up to the need to evaluate expertise in the old-fashioned, socially-mediated fashion; and the community is going to have to buckle down and suppress, with dispatch, those who stand on their rights as members of the community-- or for that matter, their powers.
I deliberately left off any qualifiers about being disruptive because it is my sense that some of the worst behavior comes from the disruption supressors. On the other hand, I don't think we need to institutionalize a caste system of experts vs. mere mortals. I suspect that the problem isn't knowledgeable amateurs vs. experts, but jackasses vs. experts. It seems to me that there is already a lot of street knowledge about as to who is a good contributor and who is a pain in the batoosh; but the culture right now is that we don't act on this.
This doesn't address the edit creep issue at all. Wikipedia:Approved article revisions is a step in the right direction but isn't nearly agressive enough; I continue to believe that Wikipedia needs a way to present the website where the stable versions are primary and work has to be performed to get to the transient versions. Approved revisions puts all that effort on the reader, which is unfair. Mangoe 21:32, 7 September 2006 (UTC)


In many Wikipedia circles, it is an article of faith that administrators are out of control, abusive, control-freaks, etc. Quite a few policies being proposed currently deal with the (alleged) need to reign in admins, and bring them to heel.

To which, I put the following questions to the experts on the panel here:

  • Have you had any issues with administrators abusing their authority (per current Wikipedia policy), either in matters concerning users or content?
  • What do you think of WP:ROUGE?
  • To whom should administrators be accountable--the community? The foundation? Both?
  • What of the means for appointing admins?
  • Are admins better, or worse, authors/editors than non-admins?
  • Here's a leading question :) : Do you notice a correlation (positive or negative) between complaints from a user regarding administrators, and crankiness? (In other words, are those users who regularly complain about administrator behavior more likely to be the POV-pushers and vandals, or the quality editors who are busy improving the encyclopedia)?
  • Should admins be given greater authority, less, or the same?
  • Should admins be given greater editorial authority (over content; historically, they have been rather limited here)? Or should greater authority over editorial matters be delegated elsewhere, if at all?

Although my suspicions may be evident from the phrasing of the questions, here are my answers (not that I consider myself an expert for Wikipedia purposes):

  • No.
  • Rogue, er rouge admins are like Dirty Harry-esque cops--useful for dealing with the persistent perps; but I wouldn't want to get pulled over by one.
  • Both.
  • Too much of a popularity contest as it stands.
  • Slightly better, with many notable exceptions in both directions. One concern I have is that many admins are too busy cleaning up vandalism to be writing good content.
  • A definite positive correlation, with wikipedia review (a blog/forum largely populated by cranks who have been booted off of Wikipedia) being the nexus of such complaints. I can think of a few cases of conscientious, productive editors who are admin-bait due to personality quirks or other issues, as opposed to blatant POV-pushing or vandalism, but in my experience the folks who complain the loudest tend to be those whom are less beneficial to Wikipedia.
  • More, but better defined.
  • As I mention in Wikipedia talk:Expert rebellion, I've been (mentally) exploring the prospect of a separate editorial track, parallel to the administrative track. But what that would look like I have no idea.

Thoughts and flames?

--EngineerScotty 23:40, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

My answers:
  • No, never.
  • As I have never run into a rouge admin I'll recuse
  • Comunity
  • Too much of a popularity contest as it stands.
  • In general I have found them better (at least in the sci/tech articles)
  • A definite positive correlation, c.f. the 'You protected the wrong version' whine.
  • More
  • No, I am not for a class of super-editors

--DV8 2XL 00:24, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

My thoughts:

  • Yes.
  • OK.
  • Fundamental wikipedia policies.
  • Good for the main purpose, keeping a communith running, insufficient for content.
  • Depends.
  • No.
  • Different.
  • Delegated elsewhere. The only way wikipedia can survive is when it starts to focus on quality content, and how to achioeve that over process and keeping the community happy. In my view, if we would have 10% of the articles, but only with verified content, approved by experts, wikipedia would already tumb Brittanica.

-- Kim van der Linde at venus 17:20, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

My thoughts:

  • Yes. The biggest problem seems to be not Admins who make mistakes or bad decisions, but those who will not back down, and frequently will reply in a rather hostile tone, even when approached in a reasonable manner, when questioned.
  • Depends, quite a lot on attitude. Stiff-necked ROUGE admins are even more obnoxious than stiff-necked regular admins.
  • To other editors.
  • Process would be pretty good for non-life appointments, but doesn't screen out potential problem admins well.
  • I have not noted any pattern in the quality of article edits from admins.
  • Correlation is strange. Loudest frequent complainers are mostly cranks, but a lot of one-time complaints are from people burned by an admin doing something stupid, and some of those complaints get loud.
  • Admins have about the right level of authority; you'd have to be specific about what changes you'd want to see for me to respond more.
  • Admins should not have any more editorial power than they currently do - to semi-protect or protect pages when there is a good reason to, and to close AfDs. Argyriou (talk) 02:33, 1 February 2007 (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 Wikipedia. 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[1]. At the risk of making an inappropriate pun, the experience was a trial by fire. Maybe the page will help some other editors resolve disputes and improve articles. Durova 16:28, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

The fundamental problem[edit]

The fundamental problem is that Wikipedia promotes process over content. For example, we have an ArbCom, but they deal only with process, not content. I think with some creative thinking, it will be perfectly possible to create a (software) structure that:

  • Is open for anybody to contribute
  • Has expert quality control
  • Resulting in stable pages for visitors
  • Has a substantial less problem with vandalism, POV-pushers, and cranks

-- Kim van der Linde at venus 17:59, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Moving content over[edit]

I'm moving relevant content over from Wikipedia:Expert rebellion, which I hope to eventually retire and redirect here. A couple of sections follow from the talk page.

--EngineerScotty 04:58, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

There, I think the relevant bits are here. I haven't moved over content which is already mostly here in another form, a section devoted to a recently-banned troll, and various "I'm leaving" sections that are adequately covered in the project page. I'll leave behind a note on Expert Retention directing people here; and after a few days will redirect that page (and the talk page) here.

In the meantime, if anyone sees something that I didn't move that they think is useful, please move it here. --EngineerScotty 05:08, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

--EngineerScotty 05:08, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

We need structure[edit]

The following section moved over from Wikipedia:Expert rebellion.

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)
I "Created" Expert Retention, but currently am not playing an active role in its development. If one is worried about this page going off its intended a guideline, I promise to set it straight. The article in its current form is mostly an essay/collection from User:LinaMinsha. In business, good managers are best at keeping the "bureaucracy" away from the people they manage. I will do that for this article. I am currently focusing on WP:BLPP, WP:BLP and WP:LIBEL, but will visit this page regularly, if it needs a "project manager," I will act as one until a suitable replacement steps forward. Electrawn 06:36, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

The questions to answer[edit]

The following section moved over from Wikipedia:Expert rebellion.

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]

The following moved from Wikipedia talk:Expert rebellion.

[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)

The Serious non-Expert contributor rebellion[edit]

The following section moved from Wikipedia talk:Expert rebellion. [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)
I think the emphasis on credentials that keeps popping up here is mistaken. It's the people who don't have credentials, and know that they don't have real credentials, who are creating the problem. I believe that in almost any area here there is a body of people who are informed enough, whether or not they are certified experts, to be able to recognize expertise when they see it. I'm not a professional theologian, but I know enough about theology in my little corner of the world to pick out the charlatans and viewpoint-pushers from the honestly disagreeing pros. Conversely, I back off from copyediting a lot of stuff because it would require making judgements about content which I simply don't know enough to be able to do. The usual cavils about my competency to self-assess are just something that we have to live with, not an all-determining condition.
What I'm seeing, however, is that people who are clearly making it up as they go along are being enabled in the community by two groups: people who engage in this fantasy of the equality of all contributors, and people who say, "live with it." I personally am willing to take some abuse from my peers, but they actually have to be peers. Experts rightly do not consider us to be peers in the field.
Quite frankly I'm not interested in "the on-line encyclopedia written by people with severe enough personality disorders to be able to put up with the abuse." Mangoe 13:18, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
I have to agree. While it would be ideal to have some method of sorting the wheat from the chaff I see several potential issues that this would bring up. To start many simply cannot identify themselves without risk. DrU removed all mention of the fact that he is a practicing physician from is user page after another user in an edit war decided to demand that the Foundation expose his real name so that he could be hauled before a disciplinary board to answer for his entries here, which his accuser (not himself a doctor) didn't agree with.
Not only physicians, but lawyers, some engineers, and those who are employed by firms that would rather not be linked with the project, would find themselves having to leave if they were forced to work under their real names.

--DV8 2XL 16:21, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

More thoughts[edit]

This section moved from Wikipedia talk:Expert rebellion.

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)
Kim's off? What do you mean? -- Kim van der Linde at venus 06:09, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
Off Wikipedia, I suppose; your user page still proclaims you have left Wikipedia. However, I'd be happy to learn that you have changed your mind, and you move into the merely-dissatisfied category. This place is vastly improved by your presense here. --EngineerScotty 06:20, 8 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)

Current priveleges of various user classes[edit]

Below is a brief table summarizing what different classes of user can do; sorted from anonymous users to stewards. Editing, for purposes of this table, primarily refers to encyclopedic content (article, template, category, and image space); different standards may apply for project, user, and talk pages. Each class of user may do anything that the classes listed above may do. Certain specific capabilities, such as checkuser and oversight, are not listed here. I've also exluded developers from the list; they have full access to the site, but are prohibited by policy from exercising developer access for reasons other than maintenance of the database, application software, and servers (in other words, developers do not use their capabilities for day-to-day operational administration).

This table is a summary of info provided elsewhere, and is included here for reference.

Level Privelege
Anonymous users (IP addresses) Edit unprotected pages (C)
New users Create new pages (C)
Upload images (C)
Established users Move pages (C)
Edit "sprotected" pages (C)
Administrators Rollback (V)

View unprotected pages list (V)
Delete/restore pages and versions (C/V)
Read deleted pages, other than oversighted pages (A)
Move pages when obstructed or move-protected (C)
Block/unblock users and IP ranges (A)
Protect/sprotect/unprotect pages from edits or moves (V/A)
Edit protected pages (C)
Edit site stylesheets (A)

Bureaucrats Grant sysop powers (A)

Flag bot accounts (A)
Change usernames (A)

Stewards Desysop users (A)
C = capability is primarily for content generation/maintenance
V = capability is primarily intended to fight vandalism (a special case of content maintenance that I have chosen to single out).
A = capability is primarily administrative in nature. Note that the overall presentation of the website (the site stylesheets) are considered an administrative issue.

Banned/block users generally have read-only access to the site, though they can still edit their talk pages. Admins and bureaucrat positions are on a project-by-project basis, and are selected by the community. Stewards are global across Wikimedia projects, and are selected by election on meta.

--EngineerScotty 05:36, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

  • It is worth noting, as mentioned above somewhere, that the "C" powers generally lie with the users and not with the admins and such. The two administrative powers that are designated as "C" in the above table--complex page moves and page deletion--are constrained by policy (WP:AFD, WP:RQM) to be only be exercised with the consent of the community, or in "obvious" cases where community consent can be inferred (such as WP:SPEEDY). --EngineerScotty 06:23, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Content-related capabilities[edit]

This section is intended to discuss future possibilities; not to generate any specific proposals at this time.

Several items on the previous chart are identified as being related to content generation/maintenance.

  • Article editing.
  • Article creation.
  • Article moving
  • Article deletion
  • Image uploading.

Current Wikipedia policy places assigns the responsibility for these actions to all editors, either individually or via consensus. Some of the above actions are denied (technically) to certain classes of users (primarily new and anonymous ones), as specified above. Technical access to things like deletion is restricted to administrators; but policy states that a consensus of users may direct administrators to delete a page; outside of speedy-deletes; admins may not unilateralily do so.

Some have suggested that some of these capabilities, or additional ones currently not specified by policy, be limited--in some fashion--to a subset of Wikipedia editors, conceivably those who have been selected by the community or appointed by the Foundation, for that purpose. Such a change would move Wikipedia closer to the traditional (hierarchical) publishing model, in which contributors have established roles, authority, and responsibilities.

Additional capabilities, and/or repurposing of existing administrative capabilities, include:

  • Make established user priveleges revokable: Currently, once a user registers an account and passes the "established user" threshold, no technical restrictions are placed on his ability to edit, excluding the act of blocking. ArbCom rulings may restrict his access via policy, but no technical restrictions are generally placed--the policy restrictions are enforced via block if the user does not comply. It may be useful to be able to restrict specific users from actions such as page creation, page movement, or image uploading (if they abuse these), without restricting their ability to edit existing articles. A more extensive idea would be to (technically) ban specific users from specific pages or categories of pages. I do not know the performance impact that either would have on Wikipedia servers.
  • Page protection: Existing pages may be protected (by administrators) from editing or movement; however policy states that this should only be done to combat vandalism (either in reaction to an attack, or pre-emptively, as in the case of the Main Page), or cool off an edit war. Policy states that page protection is not to be used to prevent ordinary edit creep or to freeze an article deemed good (or excellent). Further, page protection does not constitute an endorsement of the protected version, and is almost always intended to be a temporary measure (excluding the main page and certain administrative templates; which if vandalized would cause significant problems). There have been proposals, however, to expand the use of page protection to endorse specific versions of articles, and grant this authority to designated editor(s) of the pages in question, who could then approve changes to the page. This would contravene WP:OWN, and likely be unpopular among much of the userbase.
  • Trusted page recognition: Already discussed in great deal elsewhere; the ability to select (and endorse) a stable version of a page would potentially be a useful defense against cranks, vandals, and edit creep.
  • Page metadata: Along with the content, pages (more accurately, page revisions) contain metadata which serves a variety of functions, both editorial and administrative. Some of this is generated automatically by the site software, but others may be altered by editors
    • Out-of-band metadata (recorded separately from the article text)
      • Automatically recorded by site software:
        • Time and author of a specific revision or other action
      • Generated by editors/admins
    • In-band metadata--part of article text (including talk pages), encoded via various forms of Wikipedia markup.
      • Categories
      • Interwiki links
      • Warning templates like {{NPOV}} or {{cleanup}}
      • Distinction between articles, dab pages, and redirects
Some times, page metadata is the subject of edit wars, such as occaional attempts to include George W. Bush in Category:War criminals. Even tags like {{NPOV}} are occasionally disputed, with one side not recognizing that a conflict, often because they consider the other side's position to be wholly illegitimate (which it may well be--cranks have been known to slap the NPOV tag on well-written technical articles when their crackpot theories are reverted from the text). One interesting possibility (which might require extensive site modification) would be to move more metadata "out of band"; so that it can be subject to separate editorial or administrative control.

Other ideas? Again, posting the idea here does not necessarily constitute endorsement. Just blue-skying for the moment.

--EngineerScotty 20:05, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

A word about "respect"[edit]

Perhaps the biggest behavioral problem I see about this (and it is popping up in this discussion) is the mistake of taking "respect" and "civil treatment" as synonyms, when they are not. As far as contributing information, the experts deserve respect above the rest of us; I don't consider that to be a negotiable point in the context of encyclopedia writing. What is happening a lot of the time, however, is that non-experts use claims of uncivil behavior to assert (by implication) that their views on the subject in question deserve respect. Looking at some of the discussions pointed to as examples, I see this behavior arising in every single case, and its enabling in the community is resulting in a validation of erroneous opinion. It has established an implicit policy of "if you can get your opponent to express annoyance, it means that your position should be in the article."

And the flip side of this is that all too often the annoyance is entirely justified. If I were an academic in the field of, oh, kumquatics and I had to spend my time here arguing against some persistent git who refused to back down from his insistence that some varieties of kumquat have paisley-patterned peels, I'd get annoyed too. And I'd be even more annoyed if there were no will within the community to rein him in. And I'd be especially irritated by bystanders insisting that his demands for civility trumped my demands for accuracy.

Besides, standing on one's rights in this situation isn't civil behavior anyway. Civility demands that you don't assume the trappings of an expertise you don't have. Mangoe 13:00, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Indeed, as I've commented to Olin, it is very hard to tell from the talk pages what is actually going on, as the discussion is largely about each other's behaviour. ("Don't shout at me!!" - "You're the one who's shouting" &c). Dbuckner 13:33, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
I think the case from User:Dbiv (now a former admin) is an perfect example of this who's case was purely about conduct without regard for content. -- Kim van der Linde at venus 13:40, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
This was not an easy one. A skim read of the material suggests: a "difficult" editor infuriates another editor who happens to be an admin, and the admin abuses his or her privileges. So both end up getting banned. Correct? Dbuckner 13:59, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
But then I am guilty too. See Talk:Philosophy/Archive_5, and search for the word "bollocks". Dbuckner 14:03, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
Conduct-wise, yes. It is the content-wise component that has been left out of the case that makes the difference. This is exactly the general problem we talk about. An expert get frustrated by an other editor, and does something wrong and gets banned while he had all reasons to be supported. Take the situation with User:William M. Connolley which is in ways comparable, and a disgrace for wikipedia.-- Kim van der Linde at venus 14:06, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
Again, hard to tell from the link you gave. The user you link to has placed a POV tag on an article on the climate scientist Michael Mann. There was a brief edit war. As I'm not an expert on this, I can't judge. (Actually I do follow enough to know there was a dispute about the hockey stick thing, but that's it). Dbuckner 14:26, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
This is a long history case, and I do not know all details. He got in an edit war with an global warming denier who made an arbcom case against him. He was put in a 1RR parole by the ArbCom for editwarring, while he content wise was absolutly right. It hit the newspapers and was subsequently reversed, and later he became an admin. -- Kim van der Linde at venus 14:29, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
For all its protocol, Wikipedia’s bureaucracy doesn’t necessarily favor truth. In March, 2005, William Connolley, a climate modeller at the British Antarctic Survey, in Cambridge, was briefly a victim of an edit war over the entry on global warming, to which he had contributed. After a particularly nasty confrontation with a skeptic, who had repeatedly watered down language pertaining to the greenhouse effect, the case went into arbitration. “User William M. Connolley strongly pushes his POV with systematic removal of any POV which does not match his own,” his accuser charged in a written deposition. “His views on climate science are singular and narrow.” A decision from the arbitration committee was three months in coming, after which Connolley was placed on a humiliating one-revert-a-day parole. The punishment was later revoked, and Connolley is now an admin, with two thousand pages on his watchlist—a feature that enables users to compile a list of entries and to be notified when changes are made to them. He says that Wikipedia’s entry on global warming may be the best page on the subject anywhere on the Web. Nevertheless, Wales admits that in this case the system failed. It can still seem as though the user who spends the most time on the site—or who yells the loudest—wins.-- Kim van der Linde at venus 14:40, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
Connolley clearly should go on the list of disaffected editors, given he has publicly voiced discontent (he says in the New Yorker no less that Wikipedia "gives no privilege to those who know what they’re talking about," a view that is echoed by many academics and former contributors. Dbuckner 14:51, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Indeed, as I've commented to Olin, it is very hard to tell from the talk pages what is actually going on, as the discussion is largely about each other's behaviour. ("Don't shout at me!!" - "You're the one who's shouting" &c). The fight that Olin was involved in has gone on a very long time. I was one of the combatants at the beginning, dropping out after I saw that winning an arbitration case against the crank didn't seem to stop him, he just created a bunch of socks and went back at it. If you go back to the very beginning and read the all of the archives you will find that many chemists gave detailed arguments and answered questions over and over as to why the crank's theus was flawed. Nothing dissuaded him from his position.

Show any sort of frustration with the ignorant in these fights, irregardless of how patient you have been up to that point, and how often you have gone over the same points over and over, and they play the WP:NPA card on you. Because that's the one tool that they have left. WP:NPA is a good policy, or the flame wars would render this whole project useless in days. However it is also the most misused accusation anywhere in the wiki, particularly by those with thin egos when they are told that they are wrong. --DV8 2XL 15:10, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

I'm almost of the opinion that the following should be categorically excluded from the definition of a "personal attack" per WP:NPA (which tiptoes around the subject of what just is a personal attack, often for good reasons):
  • Informing an editor, in a civil tone, that he/she is incorrect.
  • Informing an editor that you consider his/her sources to be unreliable
  • Polite and civil questioning of editors knowledge in a particular subject matter.
And perhaps a few affirmative defenses to WP:NPA, such as "provoked by an egregious crackpot".
Or maybe not; I suspect that such changes will be abused just as readily--with the crackpots hurling insults at the experts and claiming the "crackpot defense" for themselves. --EngineerScotty 15:39, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
Do also see Chiappa's excellent parody here.

Some fun[edit]

Could not resist:

{{User:KimvdLinde/ExpertRebellion|cranck detection}}

User:KimvdLinde/ExpertRebellion Feel free to modify the box, add an image whatever....:-)-- Kim van der Linde at venus 14:25, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Very good. Do also check out the Einstein talk page. Mischief is afoot. Dbuckner 14:29, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

William M. Connolley up for AfD...[edit]

The AfD is incorrectly listed (the user who listed it didn't do steps 2 and 3 of the AfD) process; but the article has been nominated.

--EngineerScotty 15:51, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Ironically, all the attempts to remove him are just making him more notable. He's been elevated to "just another climate guy" to "central figure in a well-know Wikipedia content dispute." You just can't buy that kind of publicity. Mangoe 16:20, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Here's one proposal[edit]

Wikipedia:Expert Retention/Crackpot users

If made into policy, we can call it WP:CRACK (or WP:CRANK--though this currently redirects to the speedy delete criteria of "patent nonsense", which is a different subject altogether). Note that this isn't an attempt to catch all problems; just one particular problem--persistent advocates of crank theories--which seem to cause us quite a bit of grief (and as DV8 2XL has noted, the ArbCom doesn't handle in a sufficiently expedient fashion).

I suspect that this would not survive a vote; crackpots and POV-pushers seem to pay a good deal more attention to WP:VP, and eagerly attempt to suppress any attempt to reign them in via policy. But there's hope...

Feel free to edit and improve; this is a very rough draft. I've excluded the {{proposed}} tag for a reason (too early); if anyone here thinks that this is unwise, feel free to add it.

--EngineerScotty 17:07, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

I submit that this should be changed to Tendentious editors rather than Crackpot users one as it is easy to define as one who is engaged in sustained and aggressive point of view editing thus eliminating the need to define exceptions. Two, it would include cases where POV pushing of legitimate material shows up in the wrong places. One religion trying to proselytise in an other faith's article, to give a ridiculous example. --DV8 2XL 17:45, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
    • I'll buy that. I'd further note that "tendentious editing" is frequently cited as an offense by the ArbCom in cases involving persistent cranks and POV-pushers, even though there isn't currently an explicit policy on such. --EngineerScotty 17:59, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Crank warning templates[edit]

If WP:CRANK were ever to be approved, crackpots could be dealt with with warning templates such as this:

First offense, simply uses test1:

Thank you for experimenting with the page Einstein on Wikipedia. Your test worked, and it has been reverted or removed. Please use the sandbox for any other tests you want to do. Take a look at the welcome page if you would like to learn more about contributing to our encyclopedia.

Second offense:

Please refrain from adding original research or ludicrous and unsupported claims to Wikipedia, as you did to Einstein. It is considered vandalism. If you would like to experiment, use the sandbox.

Third offense:

Please stop. If you continue to promote original research or discredited theories, as you did on Einstein, you will be blocked from editing Wikipedia.

Fourth offense:

Stop hand.svg
This is your last warning.
The next time you disrupt a page, as you did to Einstein, you will be blocked from editing Wikipedia.


Modern clock chris kemps 01 with Octagon-warning.svg
You have been blocked from editing for a period of 24 hours for disrupting Wikipedia. If you wish to make useful contributions, you are welcome to come back after the block expires. ~~

--EngineerScotty 18:10, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Hard I.D. and the issue of Wikipedia Immunity[edit]

One issue that has not been addressed on these pages is the question of professional and legal liability.

At the Wikimania convention in August 2006, a paper was presented on the topic DOT org/sec230.pdf | Wikimmunity:Fitting the Communications Decency Act to Wikipedia by one Ken S. Myers, a recent Harvard Law graduate who is pro-Wikipedia. It is 33 pages long, has 200 footnotes, and concludes that Wikipedia can claim immunity in most cases, but might be in trouble someday soon.

In short the paper points out that the issue has yet to face a court challenge, and it is not a given that immunity will hold. I encourage everyone to read it.

Which brings up the issue of author liability.

The problem is, as I see it, is the real possibility that one could find oneself named in a lawsuit simply for having edited an article. That your edits may not have been the actionable ones is realy not the issue; the fact that you could find yourself party to an action could cause more trouble than editing here is worth.

Beyond that there is also the issue of finding oneself defending edits before your association's disciplinary board. This is not a imaginary threat. One user, DrU, (a medical doctor) was threatened with such an action by another editor over his entries in Gulf war syndrome. DrU withdrew from Wikipedia and cleared his user page, in response.

Again the point is the amount of trouble that this could cause more than the likelihood of a unfavorable finding.

Given the above, I suggest that demanding hard credentials is more likely to drive expert editors away than encourage participation. --DV8 2XL 11:10, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

Legal liabilities exist everywhere. As a book editor, I once had to settle a dispute between a scientist and a company: they had taken offense at something the scientist had written in the book and threatened us with legal action. The simple act of writing something, anonymously or not, can put someone at risk. Still, it doesn't prevent the non-Wikipedia world of knoweldge gathering and dissemination to work on a real name, hard credentials basis. Many physicians, lawyers, engineers etc. are not only authorised but encouraged by their employers to participate in books, papers, meetings etc. related to their line of work, when/because it's perceived to be positive and beneficial for everyone involved: the employer, the employee and the audience. Folks who write for trade magazines or paper encyclopedias, always under their own name, are not routinely harassed by cranks and lawsuits. I'm not familiar with the Britannica, but in the French equivalent (Encyclopedia Universalis, which now belongs to the Britannica), every article is signed.
In fact hard credentials and real names are normally seen, in most of the off-line world, as baseline standards for reliability and accountability. While demanding them would certainly drive some editors away, it would also increase Wikipedia's status as a reliable and accountable source, particularly in the many circles where those standards are considered imperative, and then attract all those editors (and their employees) who could envision their participation as beneficial, with no other risks than the usual ones. Right now, Wikipedia's treatment of my professional interests is a joke, because no-one with the relevant expertise is going to waste time creating or editing those articles for reasons stated throughout these pages. Now, raise the standards so that they become at least equal to those required in regular publications, and this may change. See also the essay The overuse of anonymity at Wikipedia and a proposal by Ben Houston. There are vast areas of Wikipedia where the current paradigm is extremely successful. In others areas, the paradigm is counter-productive. --Gilles Tran 13:01, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
Requiring hard credentials would be a terrible thing, yes. It would destroy the pretense of freedom from persecution. However there are some advantages to it, namely that it would allow honest assertions of competance to edit. I'm a fan of the idea of editorial oversight boards for various topics, and such a measure would need those going for a board place to be identiable as able to give oversight to a topic. More than anything, any public display of real information should be opt-in, never opt-out, and there should be no major pressure to jump through such a process. It should be limited to a few to whom it would indeed to useful to have assertions of competance. LinaMishima 15:04, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

...raise the standards so that they become at least equal to those required in regular publications... That is the crux of the issue. Real world publications have well-oiled mechanisms for dealing with this problem. Wikipedia does not. Also those who publish, as a direct or indirect consequence of their jobs, do so in a structured environment with certain checks and balances which are well recognised, but are not flexible enough to deal with Wikipedia's rapid dynamic.

That's not to say I don't agree that in many sections standards equal to those required in regular publications wouldn't improve things - in my old stomping grounds it would be a blessing. However, I don't think applying them to Wikipedia as a whole would be that simple.

My concern is that even in those areas where credentials could be established, potential contributions would say 'why bother' you are not gaining anything writing for this project and could conceivably find yourself in hot water. Better to publish in an open web journal where at least one can expect some professional credit for your labors.

Finally there is the politics; no matter how good this idea is, it's not going to fly with the community as a whole. Some of the other proposals we are working on here have a chance, this one does not. --DV8 2XL 14:11, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

There's also a question of value - apart from a select few cases were it would be significantly useful to know that a person was real and had certain qualifications, there seems to be little advantage to this, and indeed much potential for it being used as a form of abuse (if the information is made public we'll get wikimurders - look at MMOs... - and even if not, people may start not trusting people in the other camps and using it as some form of elitism - of which there is no useful kind). LinaMishima 15:04, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
Lina is making a valid point. It realy doesn't matter if this is a good idea or not - we (the 'experts') cannot be seen demanding it, as it would most certainly draw accusations of elitism. --DV8 2XL 15:23, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

The primary objections to requiring hard ID (beyond the utterly bad politics of it), are as follows:

  • The legal concern outlined above, isn't an argument, however. If someone has a legitimate beef, and files a libel lawsuit, they will most likely be able to subpoena Wikipedia to discover who posted what, then subpoena the ISP (if in the same jurisdiction) to identify the offender. What is a concern, is extralegal forms of retaliation, which brings us to...
  • Harassment. A certain notable Wikipedia critic (many of you know of whom I speak, though I won't utter his hame here), angry that Wikipedia includes a biographical article on him against its wishes (which Wikipedia is permitted to do under US law; the individual is American and so no foreign land's privacy laws come into play), is actively maintaining dossiers on several prominent Wikipedia admins, including displaying their real names, addresses, and other contact information where known. In addition, he has several times engaged in actions to "persuade" Wikipedians to leave the project; User:Katefan0, a well-respected to admin, was forced to leave Wikipedia after her real name was published and her employer notified (her employer evidently considered Wikipedia editing, even if anonymous and done on her own time, incompatible with her job). This individual is now actively soliciting personal info on User:Essjay, with the goal of "persuading" Essjay from leaving Wikipedia. I suspect that any attempts at persuasion will not be in the form of a polite letter explaining Wikipedia's flaws; a method which would not require Essjay's personal data.
While most cranks are harmless; there are a few who are vindictive, and who use the legal system to harass those who cross swords with them; further, many of these possess meager assets and are essentially judgement-proof. Examples abound, both both here on Wikipedia, elsewhere on the net, and in real life. Pseudonymity is a great way to protect yourself from being harassed in this fashion.
  • Difficulty of verifying ID. As mentioned in the above-quoted essay, requiring a credit card would likely disconnect much of the developing world (including China, where credit cards are relatively rare--major cities without significant tourism industries generally have NO credit card infrastructure). Plus, it would expose Wikipedia to legal liability should identity thieves ever manage to crack the system and swipe any records we might retain. It should be pointed out, that remote ID verification (without face-to-face interaction) is a hard problem to solve. The banking industry has some solutions, but many of them are expensive to implement; even at USD $1 per prospective user, Wikipedia cannot afford any solution which requires money be spent. (Plus, were we to do so, quite a few banned users, vandals, cranks, and other assorted riffraff would then submit thousands of fraudulent user registrations, in order to burn through Wikipedia's assets).

One option would be to make submitting hard credentials optional. Those user who are known to be who they say they are (up to the level of confidence that the ID verification method can ensure) would have that fact displayed on their user page. It might be desirable to make this a prerequisite for certain priveleges--such as being a bureaucrat. Certainly, in a content dispute between a verified Ph. D and an unverified IP, the former's argument should carry more weight.

--EngineerScotty 18:25, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

Have I put my name down?[edit]

What is meant by "putting my name down"?

The wiki idea works really well at allowing cranks and experts to create an article that is neutral, well-referenced, and well-written. The problem is that it doesn't stay that way. The expert says "Ahh, finished, time to move on to something that hasn't been written yet", and the cranks screw up the article again. Experts don't want to waste their time fighting with people over the same things over and over again. We need to be much more liberal with the ban button if we want this to be a reliable source of non-biased information. We're too paranoid about offending people or blocking people who might, someday, turn into good editors.

If someone is POV-pushing, there should be a quick way to put them on a fair trial (not RfC), and then just ban them. Set up some obvious guidelines about putting the same idea in an article over and over against consensus, in a way that you can clearly say "you're breaking this rule". Clarify that the article will be written either with or without their help. If they want to contribute, they'll have to do it in a cooperative manner, or else the article will be written without any input from them.

Just some rambling thoughts. — Omegatron 17:34, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

Moving ahead[edit]

We have identified five changes that would ameliorate some of the frustrations that are driving competent/expert editors from Wikipedia:

  1. An end to anonymous editing.
  2. Termination of the policies: Wikipedia:Ignore all rules and Wikipedia:No binding decisions
  3. Expand ArbCom
  4. Ban Tendentious editors
  5. Protect Featured Articles

These five changes have the advantage of being:

  1. Incremental
  2. Evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary
  3. Will not impact the majority of present editors in the short term
  4. Are easily reversible if need be
  5. Do not require any changes in software
  6. Are likely to garner broad community support.

What can we do now to start the process of getting them implemented? --DV8 2XL 16:16, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

  • I think that #1 is a so-called "Foundation issue", which would require the Foundation's blessing to overturn (in other words, the issue is beyond the say of the community).
  • #5 is also a fundamental change in how Wikipedia operates, and is unlikely to change.
  • #2 is potentially more doable, though I'm not sure it is wise. I personally don't see WP:IAR as a problem--the folks who object the largest to WP:IAR are, in my experience, the cranks and POV-pushers to engage in tenditious Wikilawyering in order to resist any attempt at oversight of either their conduct and/or content; the most frequenet (ab)users of WP:IAR are certain administrators who engage in out-of-process activies such as deleting junk pages that are technically outside the scope of WP:SPEEDY, or issueing indef-blocks to persistent trolls without a formal ArbCom ruling against them. (A few admins, certainly, take inappropriate advantage of WP:IAR). As for WP:NBD, this I think need clarification rather than reversal. Wikipedia should have the option to change it's mind; however once its mind is made up (via a formal resultion or procedure), another formal and affirmitive step should be required to change something. The construction of WP:NBD as essentially a synonym of WP:IAR (i.e. decisions are not "binding" and thus can be freely ignored), is fundamentally false. (There is lots of interesting debate as to whether NBD was properly declared policy on the talk page; though one of the principal parties to the discussion was last week banned from Wikipedia for unrelated reasons).
  • #3 I don't know about.
  • #4 probably has the best hope of passing; though I would run it past Jimbo and the board. If it is to be passed, it will likely be imposed from above, rather than passing community approval--many of the cranks whom it is designed to rein in will show up, with their sockpuppets, to vote it down en masse.

--EngineerScotty 18:43, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

I have to agree with your comments about point #2.
  • "I personally don't see WP:IAR as a problem... (etc.)"
  • "As for WP:NBD, this I think need clarification rather than reversal."
WP:NBD really does need some explanation and clarification, especially concerning "exceptions".
One simple solution for admin abuse (rogues, etc.) would be to restrict admins to blocks of 24 hours or less, and the same admin cannot block the same user twice in a 72 hour period which starts upon the expiration of the block (higher - a week, a month - would be acceptable, if preferred). Anything more, requiring a beaurocrat. And move the ability to "unblock" from admins to beaurocrats, and just allow the time of the block to expire automatically. (I'm in the process of putting forth this last suggestion elsewhere.)
I agree that all "featured content", by it's very nature, should be protected from anonymous editing.
I think anonymous editing should not be removed entirely from wikipedia (especially considering requests for help/assistance). That means that all talk-spaces should be open to anons. And all "main" (non-talk) spaces should be protected from anon editors. I would presume that this is easily doable. If an anon doesn't want to sign in, then they can post their suggested change on the associated talk page, and I would presume that most wikipedians would be happy to add it for them. "Anyone" can still edit (directly) if they sign in, and anyone can still edit (indirectly) without signing in, through talk page requests.
I also don't think that we should start allowing "precedent" for Arbcom. Especially with the "trusting" way that they are currently "voted" in. (Too much potential for wikilawyering, as well.)
There are currently MANY proposals for a change to Wikipedia systems, such as RfC/RfA/xFD/Arbcom. I think this group would be well advised to go through those for ideas, and implementation strategies (among other things).
- jc37 17:07, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

Call a Editors strike[edit]

Most if not all of the five policy changes above have been proposed and rejected via the normal processes - some many times over. In fact 1 and 5 are so-called 'perennial proposals' that direct to stock answers.

I propose that we create a template that states something to the effect that: This editor is on strike and will not contribute to Wikipedia until the necessary changes outlined in [[This Page]] are put into effect, Then we go on a campaign to recruit as many users as possible to join and place the template on their page.

Hopefully this will start a grass-root movement that will gather steam until it cannot be ignored.

Better ideas are welcome.

--DV8 2XL 18:03, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

With regard to striking--the first rule of striking is to have a good shot at winning. In the present instance, the current crop of trolls and such will happily continue editing unchecked--essentially forming a corps of scabs. In the long term, that would harm the project, probably irreparably. In the short term it would accomplish nothing. --EngineerScotty 19:09, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

The fact is that all of these would have to be implemented by fiat, and by Wales.
Quite likely. Either that, or a large exodus (or exile) of crackpots will be required.
I disagree that irreparable harm will be done to Wikipedia IF this snowballed fast enough. Anyway as things stand irreparable harm will be done if no action is taken - it will just take a little longer.
I'll agree with the latter part.
I believe there is support for this, what is lacking is a standard to rally around. If I'm wrong - then there is nothing here worth fighting for - it's time to move on. At any rate at some point the gloves have to come off, most of this has been debated and proposed in one form or another for years with no progress. Good enough is always the enemy of better; as long as we just bitch about the issues nothing will get done because we will still be sandbagging - action always speaks louder than words.
No offence Scotty, but I came back after a three month break to see if something could be DONE, more talk is just spinning my wheels and if this is all these pages are going to amount to, I am outa here. --DV8 2XL 19:37, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
None taken. I pride myself on being difficult to offend--it's a trait that makes Wikipedia more enjoyable.  :) However, I might suggest a more diplomatic path than throwing down a gauntlet. Has there been any serious attempts by the scientific community--here I mean legions of respected researchers and lecturers acting in concert, not one or two random college professors who presumes to speak for academia (this remark should not be construed to be directed at anyone in particular, BTW)--attempted to start a formal dialogue with Wales? Along with a good sampling of business and technology leaders. Something along the lines of:
We, as an organization of concerned scientists, scholars, and leaders, think that Wikipedia has great potential as a reference source, but it its current form, it is highly difficult for experts to meaningfully contribute. As it stands, many subjects in Wikipedia are dominated by a small but aggressive minority of malevolent editors, who abuse Wikipedia's openness to promote various questionable agendas in a manner which is not appropriate for an encyclopedia. Furthermore, we believe that this same group possesses the interest and ability to block any meaningful effort at reform at the community level. We have some suggestions for improvement of the encyclopedia. We recognize that the fundamental structure of Wikipedia is likely not negotiable, and are not proposing that Wikipedia revert to the Nupedia editorial model. However, we must emphasize that what is appropriate for an encyclopedia with dozens of contributors snd thousands of articles, is not appropriate for an encyclopedia with tens of thousands of contributors, millions of articles, and tens of millions of readers. If the reforms we propose are made, we will happily offer our services to improve the quality of Wikipedia as a reference work, and will happily recommend it to our students, employees, and the general public. If not, our members will find it difficult to continue any association with Wikipedia, and may be forced to consider it an untrustworthy and unreliable publication.
Obviously, quite a bit of organization up front would be needed--organization that will likely be difficult--one key goal is agreement on what must be done. It's easy to agree that something must be done; far harder to decide what it is.
I think an organized approach, from well-known professionals (rather than from a band of Wikipedia users who might appear to be attempting an end run around normal site procedures) is more likely to succeed. The conversation, if it starts, should be a dialogue, not a dictat. And the carrot should be offered before the stick; Wales strikes me as the sort who will dig in his heels if he feels like he is being offered an ultimatum or otherwise threatened. Recent comments from him do lead me to believe that Jimbo recognizes there is an issue. However, significant mid-course corrections are often painful and difficult; and some of what has been proposed here might also lead to an exodus of contributors if implemented--not just the trolls and crackpots (good riddance), but some longtime editors, some with expertese, who consider the current model a necessary condition for their participation.
At any rate, the "strike" is already occuring in a sense--people are leaving; they just aren't laying down terms for their return.
--EngineerScotty 22:18, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
In point of fact I have exchanged e-mail with Wales on this matter - I was not impressed, and I do not think that as individuals we will make him take action by mere dialog. I don't know enough about the inner politics of Wikipedia to say if this reticence to act is due to his own volition, or if other forces are at work. I do know that at this point in time our concerns here are not being addressed and it is not due to ignorance of them by the leadership.
There is a limit to how much more effort that I care to expend here if all we are going to do is talk, and it appears that this is all that is going to happen for the foreseeable future. I thank-you all for hearing me out and wish you good luck, but this is my final post. Goodbye. --DV8 2XL 23:02, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
I've been watching these pages without really commenting yet, though generally agreeing with the sentiment - but am I right that this discussion only really started in a publicly visible place a couple of weeks ago? Such far-reaching changes inevitably take some time. At any rate, good luck in whatever's next. Opabinia regalis 23:27, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
And who is going to presume to speak for so many people in this way? Another fundamental flaw with your approach is that as editing is entirely voluntary whoever signed the letter would not be in a position to give any sort of guarantee that many people would start making valuable edits if the conditions were met. Thus I believe the appeal would deserve to be dismissed out of hand. Calsicol 11:13, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
With all due respect, the call for an "editor's strike" came from out of the blue. I'm not ruling such a maneuver out; however some of us have only been involved in this discussion for a short time. And charges up the proverbial San Juan Hill work better when done as a group.
A few questions about your dialog with Jimbo--what exactly did you say to him? I'm rather certain that Wales gets dozens of emails each day from various Wikipedia editors with grievances of all sort, asking him to intervene on their behalf, whether against a specific user or action, or via imposing policy. The vast majority of such almost certainly invoke the good of Wikipedia as justification, and the actions requested certainly include every conceivable action that Wales, as leader of the project could take--along with a few inconceiveable ones. One email--or a set of emails from the same user--along the lines of "I've a Ph.D, your encyclopedia leaves much to be desired, here's how you fix it", is unlikely to stand out among the noise.
A strike might do the trick, if observed by a large percentage of skilled editors. But it would certainly be viewed as a hostile action.
My suggestion, of an organized appeal to Wikimedia Foundation management from lots of notable voices, will certainly get more notice than yet another note from a random Wikipedia user.
Now, I haven't travelled in academic circles for a long time--I've been out of school and in industry for over 11 years. Let me ask a few questions of you (assuming, of course, that you are still reading this):
  • Of the experts/professionals that you associate with, what is their opinion of Wikipedia?
  • Any of them willing to work on the project, either as it stands today, or if various conditions were met?
--EngineerScotty 06:12, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

Love the idea of a strike. But there is not nearly enough evidence of support for this, yet. Needs a lot more campaigning and a lot more awareness of the issues. For example

  • We don't have many examples of articles that suffered edit creep or 'wiki rot'.
  • We need more specific examples of trolling and crankiness. I've put a few links on the project page.
  • We need firm evidence that it is expert users who are contributing the good articles. Shouldn't be hard to find.
  • We need to convince many others of this. That takes slow chipping away, using all the evidence above.
  • We need to get more expert editors on side. Do we know roughly how many 'editors' there are in Wikipedia overall, and do we know out of those, how many are 'experts' - let's say hold MSc, PhD, are employed, are published?
  • We haven't done a poll of the profession. I could easily poll a few experts in my area of competence and probably get some notable ones to sign something. (I'm still embarrassed about academics even knowing I used to write for this place, but there you go).
  • In short, there are some very obvious things that we could do, and ought to do, but these things take time, as all good things do.
  • I am effectively on strike now, anyway. Dbuckner 07:19, 10 September 2006 (UTC)


I have a proposal to deal with cranks, can we install a system of a temporary block for anyone who reinserts specific/very similiar edits after they have been reverted withut receiving community conensus? Also for cranks from becoming the reverters should we also create a good punishment for no logical reason reverts such as being temporary blocked. Right now we only depend on the three revert rule which takes a lot of energy to wait for cranks to break it. If the actions continue after the block they should be blocked for longer periods. Obviously there should then be a place where the community can discuss controversial changes such as Wikipedia:Controversial changes?

The only problem I see is expert users having to wait for their changes to gain approval if a crank reverts them, but a good result comes from this wait since after this short period of waiting the crank is blocked. Also we can create a criteria for what is allowed to be reverted to help punish crank reverters even easier.

Thanks for the replies. - Tutmosis 18:16, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

So how you guys feel about making reverting more stricker. You guys are adressing issues of information being added by crack users but not crack users controlling pages through reverting any good edit that removes their information. The process to deal with this users is very tedious having to wait for the 3 revert rule breaching and arbcom. Im suggesting creating a stricker reverting criteria for reverts that do not constitute as removing vandalism. What you guys think? - Tutmosis 01:30, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

Featured article solution[edit]

The focus on featured articles as the solution is not going to work, as only a very small minority of the articles actually reaches that status. Worse, continued edit warring, ownership, etc are the way to prevent that, and as such, exactly the type of articles we do not have an issue with to start with. -- Kim van der Linde at venus 18:20, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

The point Kim is that it no advantage to work an article up to Featured status because it means nothing. To attract and keep 'expert' contributors some kind of carrot has to be extended. Protecting an article that has reached this level is just that. --DV8 2XL 19:58, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
Sure, but that leaves along 99.99% of the remaining articles. Featured articles are not neccesarily correct in content, but read nice, are well sourced, have a nice style, fullfill the criteria of a nice looking encyclopedic article... My contributions have been on many smaller articles that never ever will get that status. -- Kim van der Linde at venus 20:55, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
Having run one article successfully through the FA process (New Carissa if anyone is interested), the FAC editors do make an attempt to read references to make sure that the references aren't ficitious, and support the claims made. However, the FAC editors (any user whose interested in the process, with User:Raul654 appointed as coordinator) don't necessarily have subject-matter expertese, and are unlikely to be able to determine that a particular article, especially on a complex subject, is correct. The same applies to good articles.
A futher issue with feature articles, is that stability and free from either blatant POV or edit wars is a criteria; it is unlikely that Israel, for example, would ever be featured due to the ever-present edit wars concerning the Israel/Palestine conflict. (Israel was at one point a good article, but that designation was removed).
Perhaps one step above the feature article critera (for which being featured would be a prerequisite) would be to take the article and submit it to a panel of experts in the topic somewhere; the experts would be in a better position to verify the correctness, completeness, and well-citedness of the article.
But still, as Kim notes, that 99.9% of the articles aren't even close.
--EngineerScotty 21:39, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

I'm new to the whole Wikipedia experience, but I'd just like to say I strongly support the idea of protecting FAs. One would hope that the consensus from informed editors (even allowing for vandalism) would eventually lead to a good encylopedia article, i.e. a Featured Article. At this point, it's highly likely that any further edits, even well intended edits from informed people, will actually make the article worse. If, on the other hand, we can build a core of protected, good encylopedia articles, then it will be possible to treat Wikipedia as a trusted resource in certain areas, i.e. areas where there are Featured Articles. The number of these articles should go up over time. The stable core will be protected, allowing people to concentrate on improving articles which need the attention, rather than fighting the same pointless battles again and again. If you like, it would be a stochastic process where the edits over time lead to a stable state which is a Featured Article. But there the process has to stop, (at least until someone can argue their case on the talk page), or Wikipedia can never be considered a trusted resource. For a random reader reading a random article, they will never know if the information contained it is correct or not. Even if 99.9% of articles aren't at FA status, the number should go up steadily over time.

I recognise there is a problem with FAs not necessarily being correct, just well written. However, if they were stable, they could be submitted to peer review, which I would have thought would solve any problems. With articles which are highly contentious, they would probably never reach FA status- but I don't really have a problem with that, I'm not sure we should be claiming certainty about things which aren't certain.

I think there is a strong need to build a core of good, protected articles in Wikipedia. Saying that 99.9% of articles aren't there yet ignores the fact that if we can protect the core, the number of good articles should go up steadily over time, and make Wikipedia much more reliable in areas which are well understood.

--Merlinme 12:33, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

As an extension of this idea- how about not allowing anonymous users to edit Good articles? That way, hopefully more informed people would be editing Good articles, and only acknowledged experts would be changing Featured articles. Which would all help to build up the stable core which I think Wikipedia so badly needs.

--Merlinme 13:07, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

Proposal created[edit]

I have created Wikipedia:Tendentious editors as a guideline/policy proposal. It is essentially the text from Wikipedia:Expert Retention/Crackpot users with some extremely minor editing. We seem to be developing a consensus here that it needs to be pushed forward. Mangoe 00:50, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

End anonymous editing too extreme?[edit]

The "End anonymous editing" proposal currently asks for all editors to be required to provide hard, difficult to forge, evidence to be granted an account. Although this will prevent vandals, this will also significantly reduce the number of new editors. No thought has been given as to how to achieve this nebulous goal, with the only practical option being akin to Paypal's system of either phoning a landline or making small payments and withdrawls from an account and having the user enter the details. Any such system would have the following effects:

  • Limit editors to those who can aquire the means of identification used
    • This will typicially mean alfluent, over-18s in western countries
  • Add significant costs to the wikimedia foundation
    • Alhough the individual checks will not cost much, the numbers will add up. And this will provide infact a means to easily drain the finances of the foundation.
  • Add data security issues
    • Currently, if the wikipedia user system was hacked, all that would be gained would really be e-mail addresses. However in the future we can expect bank details, social security, etc?
  • Restrict freedom of expression
    • To be honest, I laugh when I hear this used as a reason for being an IP editor, as you're actually more anonymous as a registered user. But in this case, if the US goverment took offence to material on wikipedia and wanted to know exactly who provided it, wikipedia would become able to give them full personal information. More dangerously if another, less keen on rights, state were to desire details on a disedent, wikipedia would become able to provide them with this information.
  • Put people off joining up and joining in
    • As a rule, I would only trust banks with detailed ID, and so do many others. Online shops may get credit card numbers, but that's it. The whole idea would also add a lengthy hoop to try and jump through, a known means to get people to go "well, sod that".

Whilst I support ending IP editing, requiring hard ID for all users would be a step too far, and I am certain such a measure will never be passable by the community. And from what I've heard of the trustees and Jimmy Wales, they would generally not support such an idea for similar reasons as stated above. The furthest I would support, and that I believe stands a chance, would be to require a valid e-mail address. Vandals would soon get bored of trying to aquire them as well as changing IPs. Which is actually a god closing point - if we restrict all editing to accounts, checkuser would become far more needed. Personally, I have never seen why it's use has been so heavily restricted, and as such measures should be taken to allow a vandal IP address to be quickly blocked from making or using any accounts. LinaMishima 17:11, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

I tend to think that there are two different areas of knowledge covered in Wikipedia. One, the "Core", is what is found in traditional paper encyclopedias: science, techniques, humanities. Core knowledge requires expertise that is usually acquired through long training, real-world experience, and access to primary sources. The other area, the "Fluff" (it's a little bit derogatory but I don't have a better term now), covers the rest: media stuff, TV shows, bios of minor celebrities or game characters, description of local but otherwise non-notable events, places or monuments, sex positions etc.
Fluff knowledge can be acquired by mostly anyone with some free time, a little dedication and an Internet access. Fans and amateurs contribute to a lot of Fluff of course, and thanks to them, Fluff is where Wikipedia really shines: it's extremely handy to have all the Fluff gathered in one place, with thousands of people busy editing the constant flow of new Fluff. Fluff is where the system works all right. There are many people interested in Fluff, and because Fluff knowledge is easy to obtain, everyone can be a credible Fluff specialist and participate. Errors or inaccuracies in Fluff are often of little importance and can be quickly corrected. For those reasons, Fluff does not requires high standards of reliability and accountability. Anonymous IP editing work just fine for Fluff.
However, the whole expert debate revolves about Core expertise. There are professional Core experts, some very good Core amateurs (depending on the topic) but people who really know enough about Core matters to write good articles are in much lesser numbers that Fluff specialists. Medical knowledge, for instance, is not something that can be derived from on-line browsing without some potentially damaging consequences. I don't think that there are amateur neurophysiologists. A non-doctor can certainly write a serious medical article, but it should be vetted by a specialist with proper credentials and a real-life ID. An incomplete episode list for a popular TV show won't affect anyone, but wrong medical advice can hurt or kill people. Badly presented or inaccurate science, history or geography can be used for political propaganda. The standards for WikiCore and WikiFluff should be therefore different, with Core standards being much higher, and requiring a more formal process regarding identity and credentials of the editors... --Gilles Tran 18:30, 10 September 2006 (UTC)
To make another valid point, however, it would be true to also say that your typical expert 'core' editor (using your definition of core) has less free time than amature core editors, and we should not discourage those with the skills and the free time from helping out and updating articles with new information. What we really need is a means to lock down an article when it reaches featured status so that only authenticated core experts may approve changes. That, however, will require a codebase change, and hence is another reason to hold off on this one. I believe that many people would support limiting editors on featured articles to those with the ability to maintain standards, but certainly not all articles. LinaMishima 18:39, 10 September 2006 (UTC)
While it's undoubtedly true that errors in "core" subjects have more serious consequences than errors or omissions in "fluff", I don't think overstating the case is going to help matters. People should not be using Wikipedia (or even a traditional encyclopedia) for medical advice or grist for the political mill - we can't be responsible for other people's irresponsible misuse of our content, whether or not it's accurate. The overall outcome of this discussion is surely better put as "we could be a better encyclopedia if we made these changes", not "terrible things will happen if we don't".
As a side observation, I can't see ending anon editing as nearly as serious an issue as cranks, edit creep, and unnecessary bureaucracy with respect to expert retention. A substantial fraction, if not a majority, of the anon edits to articles I've written or contributed to have been typo fixes. Yes, they do most of the vandalism, but it's already been established that "dan was here"-style article graffiti is not the main issue. Opabinia regalis 18:57, 10 September 2006 (UTC)
Locking down featured articles is a very poor idea. Most featured articles are still in need of further improvement, indeed a high proportion of featured articles of the day are improved during their 24 hours of glory. There are many, many topics on which continual updating is necessary to maintain a level quality so making those articles harder to edit would most likely lead to a steady erosion of quality. It would be extremely frustrating not to be able to make small improvements whenever necessary and I believe that restrictions of that kind would drive many editors away. Furthermore I find the complacency about the quality of featured articles alarming as there is a fundamenal flaw in the featuring process in that it focuses on presentation more than on accuracy. Calsicol 10:55, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
I have always found PGP and public key signing interesting. Perhaps what is needed is some sort of technical solution, such as a wikipedia PGP keyring server. Make it "WikiSeal" or something similar. This would help seperate true experts from chaff while still providing an open wiki-like process for expert vetting. is interesting. PGP needs to be expanded to provide for metadata, so experts in a field have some way of demotion from an expert in a field back to trusted user. Electrawn 23:11, 11 September 2006 (UTC)


Moved discussion to this sub-page. Decided to get it proposed sooner rather than later : ) - jc37 22:22, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

Not sure where to put this, but... More on FAs[edit]

While I am a minor editor, and haven't done much in the way of major contribution, I have a suggestion. Once an article becomes featured, maybe it should have some sort of protection put in place. Not necessarily a lock, or any other typical protection that already exists, but maybe an approved sort of editing. Only approved users can edit a certain featured article, and this would generally be limited to those users who made the biggest and most noteworthy contributions. Then, if at some point another editor feels that they could contribute with perhaps a high degree of knowledge on the subject, they could request access to that page. The way I see it, how things work now, certain constantly edited articles stand little to no chance of becoming featured. Even if they do eventually reach that status, the constant editing and reverting will probably cause them to loose their status. See why Christmas lost its featured article status. Basically, at the rate certain articles are edited and reverted, it seems like they will never be stable enough to be consistently featured without some sort of change. Cue Jesus, George W. Bush, Mohammad, etc. Ninja Joey 04:40, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

No binding stuff?[edit]

This is an interesting essay. I'll have to think on it some more, but in the mean time I fully agree that WP:NBD is misleading. I've proposed a rename on its talk page, and it could probably use some copyediting. Comments welcome, on here. >Radiant< 16:59, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

These Same Problems Prevent New Contributors[edit]

The experiences of current expert contributors to the Wikipedia documents the problems well, but also keep in mind that these same problems are putting off other potential contributors who could serve as subject matter experts.

For example: me. I'm impressed by the current quality of much of the Wikipedia an consider it to be one of the greatest treasures of the World Wide Web. I would like to contribute and would welcome substantive corrections and additions to any work I created, but find myself reluctant to do so. It just doesn't seem worth the investment of time to write or edit a Wikipedia article if it means having to become a watch dog defend an article from capricious editing or having to argue about trivia.

I suspect (without really knowing) that for every current expert who is experiencing this frustration, there are dozens or even hundreds of potential contributors who, like me, are put off by these same problems. -- Greg 23:05, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

A Review-and-Approval System Would Help[edit]

Many of the issues identified here would be resolved by a system of review and approval for proposed changes. That is, changes would not be automatically published. Instead they would be queued up for review. Then those who are responsible for maintaining a page would review proposed changes and accept them or not.

The problem is establishing who has the authority to accept changes to each article. The obvious first choice would be the original author. (Or, in the case of a stub or other place-holder, the person who takes on the task of filling in the stub.) Beyond that, higher levels of approval authority would be necessary to settle disputes or assign alternates if the original author is not available to maintain a given article.

When I first thought to contribute to the Wikipedia, it took me a while to figure out how it works because I was baffled by the lack of system for reviewing changes before they are published. Now, learning that there isn't such a thing, I find myself reluctant to put any work into it.

This would be contrary to the basic philosophy of a free-and-open wiki society, but it would resolve the problem. Otherwise, eventually every page in the Wikipedia will be degraded to the lowest level of the users who have access to the web. -- Greg 23:05, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

Your last comment is total nonsense. There have always been problems and there will always be problems, but overall quality is improving not degenerating. You are addressing an issue that doesn't exist.
You completely overlook the fact that most edits are good but small - the vast amount of effort that is put into minor factual additions and updates, corrections to punctuation and spelling, format improvements, categorisation etc etc. Like thousands of other users I do a lot of this and I would not do it if it all had to be queued up. I don't think there is any chance that there would be enough people willing to spend time screening these minor but incrementally valuable (and essential) edits for them all to get cleared. If my edits didn't take effect promptly I wouldn't bother any more, and most likely many many users would feel the same way. I suspect that you are coming at the issue from the point of view of someone who mainly engages in major edits to a small number of articles, and overlooking that most of the time Wikipedia doesn't work like that. If your proposal was implemented I believe that Wikipedia would cease to be a rapidly updated and quickly improving encyclopedia. Calsicol 10:34, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
Ahem. I started this project a few weeks ago & unfortunately it has turned into a moaning and whinging session. The original idea was to collect and present irrefutable evidence that in certain places the quality of WP articles was NOT improving, or even getting worse. My area of expertise is philosophy (I have a PhD from a reputable English university – came in the top five in a recent review – I have taught philosophy and have a good number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals). The quality of the philosophy section of Wikipedia is absolutely LAMENTABLE. There has been good work on some articles, notably Franco's work on Hilary Putnam which earned it FA status. But the majority are badly written, unsourced nonsense. For example see the personal essay Indeterminacy (Philosophy), or the Mind articles. I was interested to see if this phenomenon was to be found in other areas of WP.
On the 'good but small' edits, I am constantly frustrated to see minor grammatical and spelling corrections take precedence over adjustments to balance, tone and content. The vast majority of editors are incapable of the latter. I will at some point produce some hard evidence of this. Dbuckner 12:04, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
You say "I suspect that you are coming at the issue from the point of view of someone who mainly engages in major edits to a small number of articles, and overlooking that most of the time Wikipedia doesn't work like that." That of course is THE problem with Wikipedia. Dbuckner 12:04, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
For where I'm coming from [Category:Philosophy stubs] is the place to look. Here we have 1,000 articles containing for the most part complete rubbish. Best delete the whole lot. Turning to articles in the philosophy non-stub category, about 100 articles, 80% of which are awful. Then to FA status articles, of which 2 are not philosophy at all, but somehow miscategorised at the FA process itself, 3 are awful, and 2 are halfway decent. We are talking of a great and noble subject, 25 centuries old, to which some of the greatest intellects in history have contributed. And this is the success story of Wikipedia. Good on Britney Spears. Not so good on Aristotle's Organon. Dbuckner 12:23, 12 September 2006 (UTC)


Please support bug 4288 which is an enhancement that allows general tagging of revisions. This will allow user and group defined tags which can then be used for things like this project and possibly other stuff in the future. Thanks. --Gbleem 23:22, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

This proposal is objectionable is so many ways[edit]

I don't have time to write an essay, but classifying some editors as "experts" is divisive and totally unacceptable. It is edits which matter, not editors. Status labels lead to arrogance and there is enough of that about in Wikipedia already.
Anonymous editing is essential. I think that some people who are already here have no idea how reluctant the average person is to make his or her first edit. Wikipedia is used by over a hundred million people a month, but the rate of conversion to regular editing is pitiable. Registering an account may seem easy, but it is actually a major disincentive. I made my first edit without registering and I suspect I am in the majority.
It seems to me that this proposal suggests fundamental disagreements with the Wikipedia model and that it is unfair for people who object to that model so much to try to take control of Wikipedia, turn it into a different project and deprive those of us who appreciate that the current model has created something remarkable of our project. Conveniently there is already an alternative project for people who cannot accept the Wikipedia model. It is called Digital Universe. Calsicol 10:43, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Your remarks here do not evince a careful reading of what people have posted. It does not seem to me that there is a great deal of enthusiasm, for instance, for some sort of expert certification. And as far as arrogance is concerned, twenty years of participation in internet discussion has convinced me that arrogance is most often shown by those who haven't earned it, but is usually accused of those who have earned it.
Whether everyone who comes along should be editing Wikipedia isn't even really debatable. Sadly, most people can't write to a reasonable standard, and some of the remainder cannot research or find something worth writing about. Instead of waxing rhapsodic about the process, let's look at the result.
Apple has been edited 250 times in a two-month period. And what do we have to show for it? Well, almost nothing. The spelling has been regularized to British English, a dubious assertion about the meaning of a painting as been removed, and a dubiously relevant section on food texture has been added-- and now that I've really noticed the latter, I'm going to take it back out. Well over a third of the edits are flat-out reversions; it's hard to say exactly because some of the claims of reversion are nothing of the sort. The article has had to be protected twice against vandalism. The article is not improving-- and while it is not well-referenced, it's not a bad article. Unlike some of the other articles discussed, it is pretty stable; apparently people don't care enough about their theories of apples to cause significant edit creep. But as far as I can tell, not a single one of the anonymous edits has stuck.
You are exactly reflecting a comment I made much earlier about mission, which I see needs to be amplified into a remark about mission creep. The mission is to write an encyclopedia; above all else, this needs to be preserved. But you've introduced a second mission of enabling the contributions of, well, everyone. It seems to me that this is a conflicting goal, and that while we don't want to put people off too much, we do want to tilt the whole operation in the direction of enabling people who can/do make good contributions. The premise of this discussion is that the current culture/strictures of Wikipedia encourage the destructive, the incompetent, and the wrong-headed over people who, through real-world credentialling, can be established as people who know what they are talking about in given fields. Perhaps it is possible to contest this as an accurate summary, but I do not see how we can accept this picture and then say that it is OK for these conditions to continue. Mangoe 12:27, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
Agree!! Just look at the Einstein page. A bunch of illiterate edits followed by reverts. One user changes "Einstein" to "Ian". Another changes "Nobel prize" to "penis prize". Yet another suggests that Einstein was the model for Dr Jekyll (despite being 6 years old when the book was written). Another user has been trying to get his, let's say idiosyncratic, views on space-time accepted by the expert community who have showed commendable patience. I believe the user was banned once, but just comes back in a different guise. Progress indeed. No sane person would contribute to such a project. Dbuckner 18:45, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

If these proposals are impractical, let it be Digital Universe that suffers[edit]

Digital Universe incorporates many of the features advocated in this proposal, placing great emphasis on experts. We don't know yet whether DU is going to be viable (though it has already missed two well publicised deadlines for launching substantial content). It may well be that the expert based model simply isn't viable because too few "experts" will give their time free or below market rates. DU is much better financed than Wikipedia, and is supported by major academic institutions, but there is still much doubt about whether it will be able to sustain itself. Let them test out the "expert" based model, and be the ones who lose out if it is found that it isn't viable. If they fail that will show that Wikipedia is right to avoid that model. If they succeed, then people who prefer the closed model can edit DU and people who prefer the open model can edit Wikipedia, so everyone who wishes to share knowledge will have a place to do so and readers will have a choice of two full and free encyclopedias. Calsicol 11:05, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

The DU model places far too much importance on experts. All a question of balance. I want a system which recognises in a SMALL way that I have made a small number of major changes to articles, over a long period. Nothing too much. Just something that gives me an edge over the argumentative newbie whose knowledge is in total disproportion to his or her (usually his) arrogance. A model where I gain the trust of a group of caretakers of a subject area, with whom I don't have to argue again and again that Astral projection or crystals are not a part of metaphysics, or whatever. Why can't I have that? Doesn't seem to much to ask. For example, the power for such a group to ban such troublesome users without going through some tortuous bureaucratic process. Dbuckner 12:09, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Proposal to convert this to a WikiProject[edit]

Currently, the project page has {{proposed}} on it; indicating that there is a policy being written here. While this page has already spun off one real policy proposal (Wikipedia:Tendentious editors), what happens here seems to be more general discussion, rather than discussion of specific proposals.

For which, a Wikipedia:WikiProject is more appropriate.

Who is for creating Wikipedia:WikiProject Editorial Quality Improvement (WP:EQUIP) for short? It would be a new project page, which would link here. If we were to do this, much of this talk page might move over; and we could create the standard set of templates and such. Other related pages could also come under our auspicies.

I've been involved in setting up WikiProjects before, and would be happy to do the gruntwork.

Thoughts, yea or nay?

--EngineerScotty 16:28, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

I think taking of the policy tag is probably a good idea. Moving it? For right now I would leave it be and look for a more appropriate tag instead. Mangoe 16:36, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
I've boldly changed the tag to {{brainstorming}}. Mangoe 16:40, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
As I said, we need to get concrete evidence of what is happening here. I have given some information on philosophy. what other subjects? We need to counter the inevitable retort that WP is a great success story &c by concrete evidence that, in areas outside Britney Spears it is not looking so good. just go to village pump for a sample of the world view there. Dbuckner 18:47, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Added subpage[edit]

Wikipedia:Expert Retention/Conflicts involving expert editors. Descriptions of specific disputes should go there.

--EngineerScotty 20:04, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Stable versions[edit]

The idea that successive changes will generally improve Wikipedia was true when most articles where incomplete or inexistent. This is no longer valid. When the number of good articles increases, the probability of changes being negative also increases. In fact, in a few years, almost all changes will be deleterious.

I propose the creation of expert committees for every academic discipline, with both "experts at large" and "expert administrators" elected among them. For example, only wikipedians recognized as "history experts" can vote for the election of "history administrators". The functions of these administrators would be:

1.- To grant or deny "expert" status to other wikipedians that claim to be experts in their field, based on their wikipedia work OR in their real world califications OR both.

2.- To designate "stable versions" of articles in their discipline, and to modify them when needed.

3.- To create sub-committees when needed.

Some articles (at first only a few, in a few years almost all of them) would have a "stable version", (just between "article" and "discussion"). The "normal" article would continue just as now; anyone can change anything. So no problem with the "spirit of the wikipedia". But you can easily clic "stable version" and read the last expert-approved version. In fact, you can now read every old version; the problem is that, if you are not an expert, it's difficult (and, even if you are an expert, it's time-consuming) to find the good one. So you can see "stable versions" as a kind of "our chef recommends..." :-)

Anyone can propose (to the expert committee) a version of an article to be "stabilized" fort the first time. Only the expert administrator can stabilize an article, but he can delegate the work of revising and approving an article to any expert member or group or members. This stable version can only be changed by an expert administrator.

Stable versions should be revised every year, or whenever needed (only experts can propose to change a stable version before their due date). Expert administrators can designate an expert or group of experts "responsible" for each stable article. Every year, the responsible expert revises all the changes made in the "normal" page, select those changes (if any) worth including in the stable version, and proposes a new stable version to the expert administrator. Bradomín 15:27, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

Further elaboration: I honestly think that my proposal can satisfy many people. Those who want a "free" wiki will have it, those who want an "expert" encyclopedia will have it also. You could signal in "my preferences" which one you prefer to see by defect, but the other one will always be easily accesible. Newcomers can edit anything, as always; and can even feel more free to do so knowing that a stable version will "survive". Those, experts or not experts, who want to delete and revert vandalism on a dayly basis can still do it; those who are tired can stop doing it. People who no longer has to be a "watchdog" can better use their time writing new material. Serious non-expert contributors will have no less, but actually more probabilities to see their contributions finally accepted, because all contributions would be assessed by an expert once a year (even those deleted by a vandal the day after).

The only problem I can see with my proposal is that it could encourage many serious contributors to stop fighting against vandalism, so the average quality of the "normal version" would decrease. But anyway many of these serious contributors were leaving, weren't they? And you will always have the stable version. There could be a tool to compare quickly both versions and make your own mind.Bradomín 17:00, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

This is almost quite similar to an idea I've thrown around amongst my friends. All articles should be made stable versions once declared to be a good article, with only admins, and in the future another larger group of recognised editors, can edit. Then eventually as a subject's article gets more complete, editorial oversight is added in the form of a group of people known to be knowledgable in that area and a few laypeople. Entire subjects of many, many articles would then have an overall editorial board, eventually reaching to a general committee for wikipedia editorial direction. Whilst many layers of burocracy are bad, they all allow for independant oversight over those benieth them. All the time a freely editable version of all articles would exist, just not being displayed to all visitors. LinaMishima 21:09, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

Another thought - educating the masses?[edit]

Whilst briefly going over the current state of what I'd began, and more importantly after reading the wonderful parody at User:Jnc/AstronomerAmateur, a thought occured to me. A major problem we have is that many people are ignorant of the scientific method, the historical method, logic, peer review and many other things that we often take for granted.

Leaving aside the problem of those who do not wish to learn (that should be solvable via the Tendentious editors proposal), it looks to me that perhaps we should also consider means to better introduce a wide range of topics to people that would see their contributions benifited by their underderstanding (ga, that's a horrible attempt at a sentance, I'm sorry). Which are the immediate areas of concern do you think? How best can we try to provide learning resources? LinaMishima 20:57, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

Sadly the whole idea of providing learning resources implies there is something to learn. This goes against the principle that WP is an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Dbuckner 08:31, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
Providing and requiring education before editing provides a negligible barrier of entry to Wikipedia. The principle specifically is "can edit," not "change" or "add to." Edit implies an intellectual who has basic knowledge of ethics, historical and scientific methods, logic, etc. There is something to to edit! Electrawn 23:33, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

Burden of proof[edit]

Having become somewhat dissatisfied at the direction WIkipedia:Tendentious editors seems to have gone, I have been WP:BOLD and set out an agressive counter proposal at Wikipedia:Expert Retention/Burden of proof. Please comment, of course. Mangoe 21:49, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

I can name three quick reasons why the guideline/proposed policy is "grounded" and dead on arrival.
  • Use and meaning of Tendentious is not understood by the average wikipedian editor. "WTF is Tendentious...REJECT!"
  • Use of a Larry Sanger quote at the top of the policy will rattle those loyal and protective of Jimmy Wales.
  • "Laying the smack down" on certain editors is a polarizing process and won't fly. Technical solutions are the answer, and specifically solutions to stablize featured articles and stop edits on featured articles from being instant. The current proposed solution can be compared to the US war on drugs, where people using them are treated as criminals. Before criminalizing drugs, we treated drug abuse as a medical problem/disorder and abuse only created more medical problems. By criminalizing, we created more criminals and eroded society view of government and morals. Ugly. If we treat teneditious editors as vandals and ban and block them willy nilly, we criminalize and polarize wikipedian society. This will eventually erode wikipedia and cause a fork or project abandonment.
Seek novel positive solutions, don't criminalize. Electrawn 23:46, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
Well, that was some of what BoP was intended to do; the problem is that a technical solution needs to implement a requirement (in this case, a principle). The principle in BoP that the the article shouldn't change while a dispute is being worked out. I'm not sure that it could even be implemented entirely in code.
In any case, the problem is that there are editors who have to have the "smack laid down" on them for reasonable people who lack personality disorders to continue. Maybe the code can do this, but I doubt it. Mangoe 00:46, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

To answer your bullets above:

  • We can define "tendentious"; I don't see that as a real roadblock.
  • The Larry Sanger quote can be removed if it will cause more difficulty than agreement. (How much bad blood exists there, anyway?)
  • The third part is the interesting one. This policy, if proposed a year ago, wouldn't fly--I agree. However, I think things have changed:
    • Wikipedia has gotten a few public black eyes (the Siegenthaler incident, etc.) over the past year.
    • We've passed 1 million articles; and probably benefit more from better content rather than new content.
    • The site has become increasingly popular with POV-pushers, cranks, and such, who see Wikipedia as a great forum for advertisement and such. People recognize this and are getting sick of it.
    • I worry more about a fork coming from experts and other knowledgeable users, rather than a fork from the openness crowd. At any rake, a fork of a GFDL project isn't a bad thing; several Wikipedia forks already exist anyway. (None has attracted a great deal of attention). While I am loyal to Wikipedia; my main concern is a high-quality, free Internet encyclopedia. I hope it is Wikipedia--which is why I'm participating in this discussion--but if it is another site that is better than Wikipedia, so be it.
  • I should note that the proposal was featured on the Wikipedia:Community Portal this week; yet I haven't noticed a flood of users coming in to denounce the policy. Usually, controversial policies that are doomed get lots of flak and dissension in the proposal stage. The policy may yet fail once its final form is reached and it is put forth for approval, but it so far has gotten far less resistance than I'm expecting. So I'm hopeful. --EngineerScotty 00:23, 16 September 2006 (UTC)
Another answer to part 3 of the objection list is that featured article stabilization is really a separate issue. Fewer than 1% of Wikipedia's articles are featured. Technical adjustments to that tiny fraction would do nothing to deter disseminators of fringe beliefs from the rest of Wikipedia. I don't see the proposal as "laying the smack down," but as bringing certain behaviors that already violate policy onto the radar screen of administrators for corrective action. People who do the same things on a larger scale already get blocked and banned, but some small scale operators slip through the cracks. As Wikipedia continues to rise in prominence it needs to refine its methods for enforcingWP:V, WP:NOR, and WP:RS. Durova 01:18, 16 September 2006 (UTC)'
Contrary, I think it is a related and relevant issue. Which is better to do in the long run, and I frame these questions from my POV: Waste time kicking out Teneditious editors...or spend time building up articles to a quality status to automatically block tenditious editing? Which would you rather do? Thats why I think the better solution is technical, and the real weight should be laid upon once an article reaches a certain quality level, edits should cease being immediate and "keep out till in." I think it is much easier to fight for w:immediatism protections on FA articles than to fight to ban editors over POV edits. Baby steps are better and easier (Divide and rule) than totalitarian tactics. :) Electrawn 01:54, 16 September 2006 (UTC)
From my own experience, one precedes the other: two tendentious editors owned Joan of Arc, which left the article unreferenced and flagged for unencyclopedic tone before I began to edit. If I hadn't been particularly dogged they would have driven me away as well and it would never have become an FA. Wikipedia lost several good editors who tried to address the problem before me and gave up - not just on that page but gave up on Wikipedia. Durova 03:48, 16 September 2006 (UTC)
I don't see the technical solution working for this social problem. Article stabilization seems to be a red herring with respect to the tendentious editors proposal; it could serve as a bulwark against article erosion but doesn't do much good against systematic cranks, whose presence makes it difficult to improve an article to a quality worthy of stabilization in the first place. (Not to mention the inevitable argument that the stable version is selected as such due to bias against said cranks.) Opabinia regalis 05:30, 16 September 2006 (UTC)
I agree that article stabilisation is a worthy but different issue, and hence a red herring in the context of this proposal. Unless we have this proposal we will keep losing good editors and will never get a reasonable proportion of articles up to FA standard, where they can be stabilised. What's the point of an encyclopedia with a tiny proportion of great articles but the vast majority can't be trusted? To me the priority should be to deal with this proposal which improves the process for the majority of the wikipedia content Viv Hamilton 07:16, 16 September 2006 (UTC)
My focus in BoP was on articles in general, not on featured status. Stabilization is not just a problem for the latter; hardly anything is safe from crackpot contributions. Mangoe 15:19, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

If anyone thinks that experts get cut any extra slack on Wikipedia...[edit]

... you might find this exchange instructive. Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents#Shell Kinney's block of ScienceApologist. Why ScienceApologist stays and puts up with this is beyond comprehension. 16:22, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

You may want to see the current debate regarding SA's admin nomination (I put him up for it; discussion here.) Disappointing to see the ways in which expert knowledge is made to bow to a number of squeaky wheels. Sdedeo (tips) 06:16, 27 September 2006 (UTC)


Larry Sanger's new project: Citizendium, a Wikipedia fork maintained with real names, editorial boards, and emphasis on expertise. --Gilles Tran 16:25, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

So does this mean we wait for "cunc" to notice this movement and try to sabotage it? I'd also dare to remark that belief in physical science expertise as a social fact is not really sustainable in light of the abilities needed to sustain expert input. A lot of the worst expert rebellion situations revolve around things like non-physicists and the like attempting to advance physical science claims. Mangoe 04:06, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
It looks to me that the concept of "expert" has a different meaning for different kinds of persons. People who tend to dismiss the expertise issue in Wikipedia tend to see it as a social construct first while those who think the problem important see expertise as something based on facts. Of course, expertise is both things, and there are domains where the social fact is dominant, but the "expert rebellion" (and generally the lack of expert input) seems more rooted in domains where expertise has been gained the hard way. Yesterday, a colleague of mine was preparing a student course related to information gathering and she used wikipedia as an example of an unreliable source of data (along with a paper encyclopedia whose choice of editors was questionable), using screenshots of pages containing bogus stuff concerning our area of expertise. They were bogus because the editors who had created the pages were obviously clueless about the topic at hand (the mistakes were glaring to an expert). The figures were wrong because they were wrong in real life, not because someone did or didn't have academic credentials. How difficult it is to see that this has little to do with the social construction of expertise? --Gilles Tran 09:25, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
Well, the whole expert rebellion movement is based on the observation that the "expert as social construct" position is tendentious and ignores differences in the character of different fields. Maybe it is tenable in sociology, but it isn't tenable in physics. If you cannot understand calculus, then you are not competent to hold an opinion on physics; that is not a matter of social convention, but of simply being able to speak the language of the field. Mangoe 11:23, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
  • My first immediatiate thought on Citizendium is it appears that Sanger, at this juncture, lacks the funds to start this project and is appealing for donations. Otherwise, he'd have a firmer schedule for deployment--if the financial resources are there, it isn't rocket science to get an Internet connection and a server farm, install MySql and MediaWiki, and import the Wikipedia database. It may be that he plans to remove cruft--userboxen and the like Citizendium can certainly do without, though I find it interesting that he plans to get rid of categories.
  • While Shirky's bit about expertise being a "social fact" may be overblown--unlike in The Wizard of Oz, someone in the real world doesn't become knowledgeable in mathematics just because he's awarded a degree (the scarecrows famous misquotation of the Pythagorean theorem nonwithstanding). However, he does have a point. Laypersons are, in general, incapable of distinguishing true experts from pretenders, which is one reason that institutions are in the business of certifying experts via various credentials (academic degrees, professional licensure, etc.). In many fields, there is a high correlation (though certainly not 1.0) between expertese and accreditation; there's a good chance that the guy who is a partner in a law firm and is licensed to practice law, knows more about the law than the drunkard camping out on his stoop. And these institutions do more than merely certify experts; in many cases they regulate their conduct as well, and nurture them in other ways. Some experts have faired poorly in the wild and wooly atmosphere of Wikipedia. Also in the current structure of Wikipedia, credentials are easily forged.
  • I think the biggest issue with Citizendium is it will be interesting to see how it avoids much of the acrimony which has plagued Wikipedia. I think Shirky is correct in that Citizendium's "constables" and other administrative staff will be quite busy in dealing with false claims of expertese--and that their stated intent to use the "honor system" will be a short-lived experiment. (In which case they get into the problem of verifying credentials). At least if Citizendium ever becomes an attractive target for cranks and trolls; (Many open forums on the Internet exist for a long time at a high level of discourse; simply because they escape the notice of those seeking attention for dubious ideas; in one way, Wikipedia's increasing abuse problem is a sign of its success. If Wikipedia had an Alexa rating of 200,000 rather than 20 or so, we wouldn't have near the problem with POV-pushers and the like).
  • As far as "cunc" goes; I'm rather certain that he is persona non grata--or would swiftly be so declared were he to repeat his challenges to Sanger's authority.
Well, he's certainly quite active in WIkipedia now. Mangoe 16:50, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
If it works, I am gone and spend my time there. The big if, IF it works, and I have to see how it evolves in the coming weeks. -- Kim van der Linde at venus 18:46, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

Featured Articles as a cure for edit creep[edit]

  1. Articles promoted to FA are automatically protected.
  2. They join an "expert queue". Basically, "this has been deemed very good and the last thing we'd like to have done is a read through and an edit by an expert (assuming the FAC wasn't initiated by an expert in the first place)." On the main page day, and for two subsequent days, it would be unlocked. Video games, pop culture, etc. would be excluded. Whoever volunteers to look it would still have to go through talk, but not have to worry about revert wars and anons.
  3. After the expert check the article becomes a stable version, which is completely locked to editing (some procedure to unlock it from time to time could thrashed out). The regular version returns to regular, open editing.

Advantages: scaleable, more attractive to the expert who will know their work is contributing to a stable version, and still attractive to the amateur who wants to attempt an FA (the parallel expert/public idea, by contrast, basically creates a kids' table that will drive away a lot of people). Marskell 19:52, 26 September 2006 (UTC)


Previously on WP I've just procrastinated by editing and creating articles in political and cultural fields. I've just dipped my toe into the waters of my own field, and it is distressing. I wonder if there is any solution to the "expert problem" that does not violate the two main reasons for WP's success -- to wit:

  1. anonymous "edit this page". This is really a cornerstone; without it, we would never attract new people and building an account creation barrier would simply lead to a steady outflow of experts without a corresponding inflow of fresh blood.
  2. consensus based editing. In general, all informed, good faith readers are reasonable producers of a consensus on many things -- politics, for example. But the very nature of advanced scientific fields means that consensus is not a guarantee of excellence when being informed requires years of specialized study and the sample is drawn from however well-meaning a population.

I am distressed by suggestions that WP move to a closed model; the anarchistic nature of the project seems to me its best guarantor of success and furthermore I doubt that WP would be able to properly identify and "privilege" expert editors. WP's success will inevitably be limited when it comes to these articles.

I think a limited solution to the problem would be to ban or remove all material above a "popular science" -- Scientific American, e.g. -- level. WP should not be in the business of MathWorld or arXiv. It may be time to accept the fact that expert knowledge can be neither respected nor promoted in the context of the highly praiseworthy, highly open model WP advocates.

I would rather we lose content that we cannot responsibly sustain than interrupt what seems to me to be a fascinating, praiseworthy experiment.

Sdedeo (tips) 06:13, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

The above is typical of the logic grounded in faith that will destroy Wikipedia.
  • There is absolutely no credible evidence that an end to anonymous editing would mean an end to more contributors joining the Project. Just because many started that way in no way establishes that they would not have created accounts. This is a simple case of the Fallacy of the premise minor.
  • That consensus based editing works sometimes, does not imply it works all the time. In fact the whole point of most of the complaints here is that it doesn't work when and where it is most needed. Nor has anyone suggested here that it should be done away with all together.
  • And typical too of the blinkered ideology that permeates this place is the notion that "a limited ban or remove all material above a...(certain) level" is workable in the context of "the anarchistic nature of the project" without a privileged group of editors.
But the point is moot now; the fact is that this page and it's siblings are not getting input from the folks that started this movement, is a clear indication that they are going to leave you all to your own devices. 18:02, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure why you're so angry.

  1. Your "fallacy of premise minor" applies, as you know, only to deductive logic, whereas I was making an inductive point -- that is seems reasonable to believe, both theoretically and from personal testimonials, that "anonymous edit this now" was a major source of growth for wikipedia and there are no good competing explainations. Literally thousands of other projects whose only common feature was a lack of this have had nowhere near the success.
  2. My second point was precisely that while consensus editing works well in some cases it does not work at all.
  3. As for removing material above a certain level, that is certaintly consistent with the anarchic features of wikipedia. Wikipedia enforces standards all the time without privileged groups. I'm simply suggesting a new one that is far easier to meet than the current demand that wikipedia articles be accurate to levels of scientific knowledge that can only be attained after years of concentrated study.

Sdedeo (tips) 21:42, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

  • FWIW; I'm one of the starters of this page, and I'm here. I've been busy with other things, however; but I'm reading this and may comment more in depth later. --EngineerScotty 06:17, 28 September 2006 (UTC)


I'm gone from WP. see [3]Gleng 14:40, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Devolution / Federalism[edit]

These terms refer to the devolution of responsibility for governmental services to local regions; these concepts might usefully be applied to Wikipedia. To the extent that we are concerned with providing a large enough cadre of administrators to maintain some order on a growing Wikipedia, perhaps the way to go is by devolving responsibility to the Wikiprojects. The larger and more stable of these groups may be able to develop a cadre (and institutions?) sufficiently to maintain the quality of articles in their area of expertise.

The simplest way in which this might be done is to encourage administrators interested in a subject to be active contributors and vice versa. These specialist administrators can than deal with greater understanding of the problems of their Wikiproject. I suggest a few minor steps to move in this direction.

  • Strongly encourage administrators, sysops, and stewards to list their status on Wikiproject lists of participants (A random check of half a dozen Wikiprojects found only one listed administrator)
  • Recruit administrators from among the active contributors to those wikiprojects which are under-represented.

When administrators are presented with problems concerning the editing of an article, there will then be a base of knowledgeable people to deal with the problem. Once there are enough admins in different areas, there may be a basis for devolving various forms of conflict resolution.

Ultimately, this cadre could provide the basis for "district ArbComs" to deal with disputes in broad topical areas. --SteveMcCluskey 14:47, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

Please see...[edit]

Wikipedia:User versions, for an idea on a way to deal with edit creep, and better enable expert editors to monitor content in their subject area. Among other things. And it's completely democratic, and in the wiki spirit.

--EngineerScotty 19:55, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

Like it or not, Wikipedia is becoming millions' primary information reference[edit]

I'm no credentialed authority, but there are some things I know a lot about (places I've lived, some local history, etc). When I want to give up on Wikipedia, I come back to a hard truth -- Wikipedia is important and growing ever more important. I suspect Wikipedia is in the top 10 rankings in Google searches on hundreds of thousands of topics (no hard facts here, but run a few experiments with Google and you'll agree). I'd say those rankings are creeping upwards, too. Wikipedia is the first place millions of people turn to when they have a question about something. Abstracts of important peer-reviewed papers may not even appear in the first 50 returns Google provides.

Another test you can run is Wikipedia's mind share. Think of the folks you know that turn to Wikipedia who had never even heard of it even 12 months ago. What was once a resource for smart, educated, sometimes nerdy, mostly middle class folks in the 15 to 30 bracket is now being accessed by grandmothers and street people in public libraries. These people, while not stupid, are often credulous consumers of anything seemingly authoritative on the Internet; they don't have the experience of unreliable Internet information that the original Internet savvy core users had. Their brains may never have developed any immunity against unreliable Internet data. After all:

  • they're reading "facts" comes out of a computer, and
  • "Internet" must be capitalized for a very good reason.

(See "On the Internet, Nobody Knows Youre a Dog")

At the same time, we all know the reliability of Wikipedia is flawed.

I expect fewer Wikipedians will agree with my next assertion: Notwithstanding articles in Nature and elsewhere, I suspect that you'll find more stuff on Wikipedia that's downright wrong or slanted than in Britannica. Again, that's just an impression.

Even if I'm wrong and Wikipedia really does beat Britannica, there's still the nature of Wikipedia's errors. In some cases, these errors are downright dangerous such as when quackery finds its way into medical articles for even an hour or two.

Experts may feel they're fighting a hard battle against the forces of ignorance, but they're fighting the good fight. If this fight is not engaged, both by real experts and the other thousands of conscientious, high-volume editors, then we may see an ever growing number of people turning to Wikipedia for more and more information at the same time this information is becoming less and less reliable.

Wikipedia becoming a tool for the propagation of global ignorance -- scary, huh?

I encourage experts to consider that their peer-reviewed paper may never influence more than a few hundred people while some idiot's brief spammy edit flogging a miracle cure for kidney disease may be read -- and, in some cases, acted upon -- by a thousand people in the hour or month it appears in an article before the edit can be reversed. The paper may influence several hundred very important people, still the power of Wikipedia is getting almost scary. Sort of like Google's power, except in this case it would be as if anyone could edit the page rankings anytime. --A. B. 19:49, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

You know what? I for one don't give a damn anymore, and nether do the other conscientious editors that have quit. We just don't have to put up with the nonsense in this place and we won't. If Wikipedia wants to attract real experts as editors, it has to change its attitude, because WE DON"T HAVE TO, and until that simple truth sinks in, the numbers of good contributors leaving will continue going up. And we will not be replaced as easily as burnouts were replaced in the past as word is going around that writing for this project is a waste of time. Every one of us that dropped out is telling our colleagues and peers not to bother, and telling our subordinates not to use this place as a source of meaningful information.
You can wax all you want about 'fighting the good fight' and the 'fairness' of permitting any random asshole to piss in our work, but we have stopped listening. The bottom line: Make the necessary changes or do with out us. The ball is in your court. DV8 2XL as 03:50, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Yikes, DV8 2XL, there's a human being at the other end of your rant above and it's me. Somebody must have done some really ghastly things around here to make you so mad, but it wasn't me that I'm aware of. I can only think that maybe you see me as some sort of Wikipedia everyman, one more of the legion of ignorant, uncredentialed editors that you think don't appreciate your contributions; if so, there's not much I can do about that perception. --A. B. 04:17, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
By the way, DV8 2XL, in a kinder, gentler day, it would have been interesting to discuss energy topics with you; I've spent much of my engineering and management career working with various of the energy resources you covered in your earlier, interesting and thoughtful user page essay on the topic: nuclear, coal, most recently electric power transmission -- all preceded by some summer college work offshore. No advanced academic credentials, however.
Good luck in your future endeavors. --A. B. 04:32, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Interesting comments, DV8... I wish to inquire about the precise meaning of one word, in the passage of "permitting any random asshole to piss in our work". To which "our" are you referring, and to which random assholes? If you mean the collective "our" of the community of conscientious Wikipedia editors (and the public as a whole, whom Wikipedia is intended to benefit), and "random assholes" refer to those who exploit or disrupt Wikipedia, then I certainly agree. I'm part of that our, lacking in credentials as I am; and I dislike seeing the commonweal peed in. There are many bad-faith editors who wish to exploit Wikipedia; and just as many well-meaning-but-don't-get-it editors who we are often unable to distinguish from the bad-faith kind.
If, on the other hand, "our" refers only to that subset of users who are experts, and "random asshole" refers to the rest of us; then I don't know what to tell you. One problem is that it is often hard to tell where the good guys stop and the "bad guys" start; the two often overlap. I've come to the conclusion that the best way to improve editing conditions for experts is to improve editing conditions for all conscientious and productive editors; one of the biggest problems cited above was disruptive editors with an infinite capacity to wage edit-wars in order to advance dubious theories. We've now got WP:DE, for what that's worth; it will be interesting to see how effective this is. Edit creep is another issue that remains to be solved; this is a harder one is most cases of edit creep are not likely to be dealt with by blocking miscreants--most creepy edits are done by users in good standing with good intent. However, I'm not rather sympathetic to outright attempts to WP:OWN articles; many experts do contribute here without attempting to assert ownership. I hope that is not what you meant by "our".
One good bit of advice for anyone who is an expert, regardless of whether or not they like to edit Wikipedia: Publish outside. If you do so, you still help Wikipedia; and in a fashion where your words are yours, and aren't going to be changed by someone who knows little of the subject. We need good reliable sources as much as we need good editors; even moreso. Many more people are competent to write about physics on Wikipedia than are competent to conduct and publish research on it.
--EngineerScotty 05:45, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

First of all A. B. I wasn't addressing you personally, and yes I feel that the whole egalitarinism first, quality of entries later down the list of priorities, here asinine and I make no bones about it. The latent hypocrisy of calling for expert contributions, and then demanding, with a galling moral ascendancy no less, that we subordinate or work to those who know less than we do about the subject, is an insult.

  • Subordinate is perhaps the wrong word. In the wiki ideal, for what it is worth :), nobody is subordinate; and some high-profile academics have been publicly upset about this, demanding fealty. In practice, subordination does occur; however, in many cases it's to the biggest WP:DICK, not to the most knowledgeable user.

Scotty - comes down to if the shoe fits..., that being said of course I am referring to edit creep that leads to 'Wikirot' and the free reign of editors that are scofflaws. I have written elsewhere that an 'expert" in the sense of this whole discussion is one who knows the subject and can supply proper references - be it one of the hard sciences or be it bubble-gum trading cards. Credentials were never an issue with me, accuracy is.

  • That's good to hear. Unfortunately, the word "expert" gets overloaded quite a bit; many people assume that the whole debate is about "all-star" PhDs wanting to WP:OWN articles. Of course, when you use the generous definition of the term, often times the experts come into conflict. A common reaction when that occurs, and both of the experts in question are convinced they are right, is not a civil discussion but a game of dueling credentials. Either that, or the "my source is better than yours" game. Often times, the best practice is to observe WP:NPOV and document the dispute.

"We've now got WP:DE, for what that's worth" Indeed, watered down until it is a restatement of the status quo. The fact that you will be "interested to see how effective this is" tells me you don't hold up much hope. The process was hijacked, you know it and I know it, and I can say so even if you can't.

  • I don't hold any hope that it will completely solve the problems--that was never it's intent. We all know that the program you proposed above won't fly politically--and if Jimbo were to impose it en masse, I suspect that the additional experts it would attract would fail to make up for the numerous other users--including experts--who would likely leave the project as a result. I do hold up hope that WP:DE will make an impact--I am aware of it being waved in the face of difficult editors with some effect. I haven't noticed any WP:DE-related blocks being discussed at WP:AN, but it's early. If nothing else, it will give admins better cover to deal with problem users, and be useful in dealing with those who would wikilawyer their way around the older policies. I'm now taking a good hard look at WP:RS, and starting to formulate some ideas there; that will be a tougher nut to crack though.

Wikipedia is failing because as revolutionary as the ideology was, and as well as it worked at the beginning, the evolutionary changes that are now needed as the project matures are not being made because of internal resistance. This reactionary attitude is typical to many endeavors that had early success then lapsed into irrelevancy, and is the reason they failed. It is sad to see the same happen here. DV8 2XL as 22:29, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

  • It's October 2006. Your predictions, then, for Wikipedia's a) popularity, b) perceived authority, and c) actual authority (in order of difficulty to determine) for October 2007.  :)
--EngineerScotty 23:24, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
    • It's difficult to predict just one year in advance because we don't have hard data on the rate of degradation of Wikipedia articles. Nevertheless, I would be so bold as to guesstimate that within 10 years, by October 2016, Wikipedia will have become irrelevant as a source of information. Some people thrive on controversy and conflict; others don't. As long as there is an open invitation to mischief, in the long run, those who derive reward from making a mess of things will prevail, having driven out those who have grown weary of the constant struggle to maintain the articles. --Greg 12:07, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

Policy proposal[edit]

Several editors have proposed replacing the troika of WP:V, WP:NOR, and WP:RS with a new proposal, Wikipedia:Attribution. I'm participating in the discussions; though am concerned with the direction of this.

--EngineerScotty 16:17, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

New arbitration relevant to this page[edit]

Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Pseudoscience is a page regarding issues surrounding why many science experts leave Wikipedia. Take a look. --ScienceApologist 12:47, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Are the five invariables of Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science completely present? 18:36, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
"O gosh, lets have an argument!" -- my sarcastic reply -- this type of anon commentary is exactly why the cranks and crackpots are driving away the good editors. linas 23:58, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

And for a new twist in the "expert" battle, check out Wikipedia:Mediation_Cabal/Cases/2006-10-05_Bowling_for_Columbine and if you have an infinite time to spend, Talk:Bowling for Columbine. Here we have User:Schrodinger82 pushing the claim that Michael Moore's detractors cannot be cited because they are not documentary film makers or film critics. Mangoe 15:03, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Pseudoscience is a poster for why serious editors are giving this project up for lost. I drop in once a week or so to scan things to see if there has been any progress, and it seems that if anything the situation is getting worse. I draw your attention to User:MichaelMaggs/Minority science and pseudoscience for a rather good essay on the issues at hand. --DV8 2XL 16:34, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

Expert Editions[edit]

Wikipedia:Expert retention#Create a parallel series of ExpertEditions doesn't mention letting non-experts edit the experts' talk page, as they do now on the Main Page. Presumably this is an oversight. Experts need non-experts for spelling and similar proofreading, for criticizing talk page behavior, and even for correcting technical assertions if the non-expert is sufficiently deferential to the experts. Art LaPella 03:32, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

The particular problem here is to avoid building an encyclopedia for experts, which will invariably happen if non-experts can't point out sentences that are not intelligible without knowing jargon, for instance. - Samsara (talkcontribs) 09:47, 16 October 2006 (UTC)
I like the general idea; see Wikipedia:Version_1.0_Editorial_Team/Blessings for an expertise-neutral way to support parallel editions. +sj +

Non-expert supporting sceptical experts[edit]

I hope that your initiative to change Wikipedia will be a success. I want to contribute to it, if that is possible.--Daanschr 07:22, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

I have made a proposition to change Wikipedia bottom up from within. I hope some of you are interested to join. See Wikipedia:Expert_retention#Improving_the_quality_of_debate_in_talk_pages.--Daanschr 18:41, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

Humour or sad truth?[edit]

I've read through some of the opinions. The main claim seems to be there are crackpot Wikipedians who destroy good Wikipedia articles that are written by experts by doubting established facts or well-supported theories, or writing positively about disproved hypotheses. We can test this hypothesis. There are many Wikipedia articles that deal with potentially sexually arousing themes. Under the additional assumption that when crackpots encounter such articles, they tend to jack off or go away to find sites that help them do so (rather than contributing any edits), we would predict that pornography-related articles are more factually accurate on average than articles about "proper" academic subjects, because only genuinely interested people would edit them. Anybody want to propose a methodology? - Samsara (talkcontribs) 15:20, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

Contentious Experts[edit]

I think there is also a point about the fact that experts can be every bit as dogmatic as cranks. I've read a number of books where I was constantly thinking "Yes, I know that your subject is important, that's why I'm reading the book, but you can't honestly expect me to believe it's the be-all and end-all of everything." When looking at why Betrand Meyer left, I was led to Talk:Eiffel (programming_language), where it appears that Betrand Meyer jumped in with the "right way" to do things and got into an editor war over syntax highlighting, and furthermore helped produce an article that was overly heavily tutorial and advocacy. It takes some personal distance from a subject to write dispassionantly (in an WP:NPOV manner) about it, and it's clear to me that Meyer didn't have it, and neither do many other experts.--Prosfilaes 15:34, 18 October 2006 (UTC)

I'd be careful about expressing that as a generalisation. It's probably true that dogmatism increases with age, but certainly younger scientists become successful by revising existing frameworks. And this only a sceptic can achieve. I'm inclined to think that older experts are just as valuable because they can write with great knowledge about those facts and theories that form the foundation of what is current science. And I think most would lose their dogmatism after a few years of lecturing and become content for the students to take away anything at all from the lectures. I have great respect for academics who are very active lecturers - it seems to improve both their writing and public speaking considerably. - Samsara (talkcontribs) 15:47, 18 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't know about dogmatism increasing with age, but it does increase with personal connection to the issue. I think it important to note somewhere when talking about expert retention, that not all expert loss is Wikipedia's fault or even possible Wikipedia's loss; that some experts cannot or will not play within the guidelines. IMO, it's quite possible that Betrand Meyer was one of those, that no matter how we had treated him better, he would have been unwilling to try and produce consensus on non-factual manners (in this case, the formatting of code and code fragments) or help produce encyclopedic, neutral articles.--Prosfilaes 17:14, 18 October 2006 (UTC)
You are partly right. I have heard some hideous stories about historians specialised in Norman history. However, my main complaint for being critical of Wikipedia is a lack of objectivity. I don't like it that major edits to articles are hardly discussed in talk pages. If a discussion does occur, then it mostly has to do with political reasons or one-sided 'POV-pushing'. Real discussion on the contents of an article only occurs in popular articles. This doesn't mean that a popular article has a good quality. The article Anarchism is the most hotly debated i guess, but it has resulted in a lousy political compromise. The moment i really had enough of Wikipedia was when the article Military history of France became the featured article of the day. The main page of Wikipedia made the military history of France start with the Romano-Gallic wars in Italy in the 4th century BC. The Gallic or Celtic people came originally from Southern Germany and migrated to Italy, where the war between Romans and Gallics evolved in the 4th century. It has nothing to do with France. I changed to change it into the article Military history of France, but my changes where quickly reverted. The reason of the revertion was the lack of space. My edits were allowed as long as the Romano-Gallic wars in Italy of the 4th century BC remained part of the article. At that moment, i just gave up. I didn't want to be a part of Wikipedia anymore. I have left Wikipedia for Citizendium a month ago.--Daanschr 17:56, 18 October 2006 (UTC)
This is a valid point, for sure. The people who expound the most contentious minor theories are, in their own minds, experts. There are also some fields of expertise where there are separate and opposing entrenched views; it is hard for the "referee" to judge the merits without specific knowledge. The more contended an article is, though, the more likely it is that there will be discussion, in my experience. But there is for sure more motivation for the POV-pusher than there is for the reputable expert, since the reputable experts understands that the academic credibility of Wikipedia is zero whereas the POV-pusher knows that it is a very effective tool for raising the profile of the minority view. Guy 15:47, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

Towards a taxonomy of "expertise"[edit]

Maybe I've missed it somewhere else (not being a Wikipediologist), but the use of the word expert here (and on related pages/articles/essays) seems to me to co-mingle various concepts that are, it would seem, not a singular homogeneous point, but rather, a taxonomy. Some of the issues discussed might fall into clearly defined classes if a taxonomy of "expertise" were developed. I shall propose a starting point:

  • Originator: A subject originator is someone who is generally accepted in the subject field to have originated or established the foundations for the main article topic. An example: the Chomsky hierarchy was originally put forth (though not named such at the time) by Noam Chomsky, and thus Chomsky is that subject's originator. Juris Hartmanis is widely accepted to be the originator of what is now known as Computational complexity theory.
  • Authority: A subject authority is someone whose contribution to a subject field is cited authoritatively in support of statements made within that subject. While the Authority did not originate the subject, the authority contributed or contributes still with such force that he or she speaks on the topic with considerable weight. Authority typically comes from serious publication within the field that has a clear history of being cited as authoritative within the field or subfield.
  • Specialist: A subject specialist is an expert (see below) who has moved towards a specialization within the field. They carry far more authority within their subfield than perhaps an Expert would, because they are far more widely versed within that specialty. As with an Expert, when a Specialist is called to the floor on the veracity of a statement, he or she can always substantiate that statement in a credible way. Some specialists have fallen out of practice in the general field, and may not be so quick to substantiate general statements, but certainly have learned the methodologies of the field and thus know how to with effort do so.
  • Expert: A subject expert has mastered a subject field, and may have contributed to the body of knowledge in the field (such as through a doctoral thesis or rigorous monograph), but is generally not recognized to have contributed so widely as to speak with the level of authority of an Authority or Originator. An Expert is often a teacher or professor within the subject area, and has a broad knowledge in the general discipline. Expert statements carry some authoritativeness because the Expert knows the methodology of the field so well as to always be able to substantiate statements when called to the floor in regards to their veracity.
  • Professional: A subject professional is someone whose day-to-day professional life falls within the field, but for whatever reason doesn't fall into one of the above areas. They understand the general areas of the field, specialize in some, and generally keep as up-to-date as possible in those areas that directly or indirectly influence their profession.
  • Enthusiast: A subject enthusiast is someone who has studied a subject with sustained enthusiasm. Sometimes called an amateur or hobbyist, the Enthusiast may have a huge understanding of some subject, but except within certain contexts, isn't recognized in the field (due to any number of factors). An avid golfer may know what is and is not true of golf, but is not likely to be quoted on a particular professional golfer's game in a national medium, unless attribute as "-- A Big Fan", or without some qualifying statement, "Joe Bloggs, who has been an avid golfer for 20 years, commented that everyone at his local club stood in a minute of silence after ...."

I've ordered the above not by perceived importance but by estimated supply: there are fewer Originators than Authorities than Specialists than Experts, than ....

Now, a given individual, even within his or her own wide field (eg. mathematics) may fall into any number of levels of this taxonomy across the various subfields of the discipline, and certainly may have other areas of expertise into which they overlap.

As pertains to "expert retention" -- each of these levels of expertise would seem to me to involve differing issues, concerns, and cost-benefit weights. The cost of losing an Originator or Authority might be seen to be far higher than the cost of losing an Enthusiast, but not always: the Originator or Authority may only contribute to one article, but the competent Enthusiast may improve a wide number of articles and thus efforts to retain an Enthusiast might have more returns to the project as an encyclopedia of general knowledge in the longer term and wider scope.

If one expends too much effort to retain the few at the low-supply levels, rather than fostering productive contributions from those at more-supply levels, one might end up exhausted end up spending too much for too little overall return to the project. If one ignores or alienates the low-supply level experts, one might end up being discredited by those few voices who later can lend the most credence to the project overall. (Addendum as an example: this version of Meyer's user page.)

I have no answers, and propose this taxonomy simply so it might be seen that this is not just about expert retention but a certain amount of cost-benefit analysis that goes beyond a single point of reference. (IMO)

-- QTJ 22:20, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

As a student, I probably am a professional, isn't it? I like your classification.
At the moment, i am writing my final paper on the description of John Stuart Mill in the second half of the 20th century. The reason for doing so is that most writers, even specialists with authority include individual political statements in their texts. One writer even chose to write an epilogue instead of a conclusion, because his conclusions would probably not be shared by others. This is only one of the subjects with such a level of subjectivity and political sensitivity, that a careful organization is needed to prevent too much authority of those who are way up in the hierarchy of expertise.
My solution for this problem is that non-experts should be able to contribute to an article, but only if they are prepared to examine literature and are ready to change their minds after reading this literature.--Daanschr 07:51, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
I feel that perhaps the largest contribution the low-supply experts might offer is essays on subject field methodologies, rather than main namespace content. This is only a hunch, but if the methods of a field are clearly explained once and some consensus is made on those essays in the WP namespace, then article editors know against which standards those articles will be judged within those subject fields. The methods of science, for instance, are used in science. The methods of computer science may not be those of biology, but each field has its methods. If an editor is educated as to those methods, then how one judges an article no longer becomes one of its apparent truth or lack thereof: but against those standards of form. While Wikipedia is not driven by the mainstream world, it feeds the minds of the mainstream world. Scientists familiar with the methods of their fields can recognize what doesn't fit into their models without a second thought. For example, no ascribing of motive would ever find its way into a math paper. Period. Just not done. So, for the motives or supposed agendas of some particular person to find their way into a Wikipedia article on some mathematical thing ... is contrary to the methods and norms of the field. Wikipedia gets to set its own rules internally, but it doesn't get to redefine the game about what is and what is not accepted methodology.
Here, IMO, is where the low-supply experts might best use their time. Not so much in writing articles, but in educating editors (through exposition in essays) who are non-experts, as to what the field's practitioners will accept as competent exposition within those fields. Just my 2 cents. -- QTJ 16:11, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
That is a good idea, however a considerable amount of experts need to spend their time educating, otherwise the non-expert editors will succesfully resist. It will require a tough kind of utilitarianism, with the ability to exclude those who don't want to abide to the change in editing.--Daanschr 18:32, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
I sense in the decentralized, free-for-all environment that Wikipedia is that "exclusion" of just about anything is counter to getting anywhere fast. If such essays were to describe the methodologies of the various fields, sure the editors would be free to ignore the methodologies, to take them or leave them. Those who ignore established methodologies, however, once they have been presented with them, cannot claim ignorance of the standard methods. If we assume the good faith of editors, a guideline and assumption that I sense overall has had positive consequences to the project, then we can assume that editors exposed to accurate essays about the standards and methodologies of the field would, rather than pointing outwardly to them so as to exclude others -- point inwards against those so as to exercise that good faith (to better the project's goals) against some known ideal. It's not so much a proscribe as a describe, in other words. It may be that very many editors simply do not realize that certain things are not done in some field. Popular media sometimes is the primary education about methodology in exposition -- and some fields have peculiar and particular standards that in no way correlates to that context.
The low-supply experts then, rather than having passed down decree, would have expended their efforts not to correct the higher-supply experts, but to offer some light so as to avoid too many repeats of what happened with XYZ. Just my idealistic thinking, of course. -- QTJ 18:57, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
Or to put it in a nutshell: "If the low-supply experts explain what is viewed in the real world as sound methodology in the field, the assumption that the majority of high-supply experts and editors here are really here to generate a source of knowledge that has some use and credibility in that real world would tend towards that outside methodology at least being taken into consideration when editing articles within that subfield." -- QTJ 19:04, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
I agree with you that wording and a positive outlook is important. Trying to be diplomatic can solve problems between experts and non-experts, which would otherwise turn into edit wars. However, i do not share your idealism. The practise on Wikipedia proves that many non-expert editors don't want to submit to the methodology and the authority of experts. These non-expert editors will not accept it that it is good faith to submit to certain methodologies. Also, experts themselves tend to dissagree with eachother not only on the conclusions, but also on the methodology of the seeking of knowledge.--Daanschr 10:12, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
There's no doubt that experts differ in certain fields as to methodologies. This can be seen in the requirement of a thesis or dissertation to defend the methodology employed and show how it applies in a given case. (No one shoe fits all feet approach.) It's probably also true that method without understanding can lead to well-formed nonsense. Some might even argue that a little method is a dangerous thing in the wrong hands, since it leads to well-formed nonsense that has an appearance of legitimacy. Even so, exposure to the methods and norms of the fields is a form of due diligence, and supplying access to those methods and norms goes towards good faith. It is pro-active rather than reactive. From what I've seen, yes, maybe it's rather idealistic to suggest it has a snowball's chance, reading rather like an appeal for everyone to hold hands and dance around the Maypole, but if you don't lead a horse to water, it doesn't have much of a chance to drink. Willful blindness is one thing ... rebellion against norms another. If editors wish to buck the system and eschew accepted methods, then the general public who know better are well within their rights to scoff the results. -- QTJ 15:28, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

In response to the above question: "As a student, I probably am a professional, isn't it?"

I suspect for the purposes of the above taxonomy a "professional" contains the sense of a cost-of-failure, and an enrolled student indeed entertains a cost-of-failure: poor marks, lack of opportunity for further advancement in the field of study (can't get into grad school with a C, for instance). A "paid professional" can get fired (or sued) if he is sufficiently "wrong". So yes, I suppose a student would fall into the professional level if there is an associated cost for not following the norms or misapplying the expertise (willfully or otherwise). -- QTJ 19:39, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Systemic Anti-Expertism? (Diffs please?)[edit]

In part, in a section above, is this statement:

There is a constituency of Wikipedians who take deep offence to any suggestion of expertise, and will make it hot for those that come, and tedious for those who stick around for awhile. --DV8 2XL 20:38, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Then, I note this (in part) in a reply to something I said in the Taxonomy section:

The practise on Wikipedia proves that many non-expert editors don't want to submit to the methodology and the authority of experts. [...] .--Daanschr 10:12, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Now, in the interest of trying to at the very least analyze whether or not these hypothetical anti-experts have any legitimate concerns that might be addressed ... are there any diffs that might illustrate the suggested phenomenon being described? Not to bring attention to those who would resist expert participation, but to see what the key issues involved are?

-- QTJ 15:59, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

One example, off the top of my head, occured at Talk:Eiffel programming language, where Bertrand Meyer (the language's creator) was given a rude reception when he attempted to edit the article. Granted, Meyer was rude and haughty in return, carrying with him an attitude of "I'm the expert on this subject so you all shut up" (he didn't say those exact words, but the sentiment was there). Several other editors had an attitude of "This is Wikipedia, and we don't care who you are. Play nice with your peers or you'll be blocked". Among the fellows arguing against Meyer was one other notable computer scientist, David Mertz, aka User:Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters, though he was tame compared to several other participants. Meyer does have a long-standing reputation among computer scientists for being somewhat difficult to deal with, one that long precedes the fracas at the Eiffel article (and may have contributed to it--his writing have offended quite a few).
The main subject of the debate were issues concerning the stylistic presentation of the article, which is more unfortunate.
--EngineerScotty 17:59, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
An important reason for being anti-expert could be a wish to be of importance. Persons could resist to get the label of a non-expert, because they don't want to lose their status of being a repected member of the Wikipedia-community. What should be taken into account is that experts threaten an established way of life of many users who spend lots of time editing on Wikipedia and who have met several new friends they don't want to miss within the context of Wikipedia. New rules with the intention to make Wikipedia more expert-friendly will be met by those who belong to the community of Wikipedia as a threat. Skillful diplomacy and sometimes very hard confrontations are needed to change Wikipedia from within. I have too little experience with Wikipedia to be able to give a full analysis of this problem.
I know some users like to start debates with the intention to win, factualism is not a concern for them. Other users have a certain ideology, which give them the urge to change articles and start edit wars without having any inclination to subdue to others with a different ideology. I have often contributed out of boredom, knowing that the quality of Wikipedia was so low, that i could hardly do any harm to it. This freedom of editing without being punished for stupidity could be something cherished by non-experts and even experts.
An asset that could bring users, even non-expert users to support expert-friendly change is to advocate change in a positive way. More objectivity will make the experts happy, so the expert-rebellion would stop. It would give Wikipedia a better name worldwide and thereby add to the respectability of Wikipedia and atract more users who contribute with a high quality. Also, articles of high quality, written in an understandable language can increase the curiosity and exitement of non-experts. Debating in talk pages with experts, who are famous around the world could increase the number of contributors. Carefully choosing new institutions for the change of Wikipedia could reduce the threat to non-experts while still being able to satisfy the need for objectivity of experts.
I have the impression that a considerable amount of experts have left for Citizendium. The discussions on this talk page were limited this month.--Daanschr 19:05, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Unforutnately, many of the issues you quite nicely bring forth are, IMO, issues of sociology and group and interpersonal psychology, bordering on such notions as "need-to-belong" and go to motives, aspirations, psycho-socio-posturing, group dynamics, and other areas that have yet to be sufficiently regarded by the concerned scientific communities, in my opinion, for any clear analysis to be made that would amount to more than rampant speculation. The issues involved are indeed noted -- but how could one go about making a declaration of guideline or policy to deal with such things that wouldn't be culturally based? Would it lead to the goals of the project being more economically attained? At what cost? Too deep a well to jump into, IMO. -- QTJ 19:21, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I agree with you that my analysis is not complete. Changing an organization as large as Wikipedia isn't possible without regards for culture and politics. A large amount of dedicated users is necessary. Since it is politics, it means that the most important aspects can't be measured: On whose side is mr. Wales? What will different kinds of non-experts do? etc. etc. How will the different factions of Wikipedia interact with eachother? It requires recruiting, lobying and making compromises. Assuming good faith, so to say, assuming that others will accept our ideas, because they are supposedly better is not a good plan to enter a conflict. There are winners and losers in a conflict. At this moment the experts are losing and thereby also objectivity and the reputation of Wikipedia.--Daanschr 22:15, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
One initial hesitation I had about even injecting myself into the very discussion we're now having is that these things can slowly tend to erode one's ability to be neutral. The more one lobbies, promotes, politicks, et cetera, the more one risks an appearance of having a stance or an agenda above and beyond representing documented knowledge in the main namespace. The second initial hesitation as related to {WP:BEANS}. It's a Catch-22 of sorts: speak up, and risk joining or forming (or being perceived to having joined) a "faction", don't speak up, and be susceptible to wilful blindness in the face of the erosion of the project. Ugh. -- QTJ 22:34, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
You are right. At the moment, we are with too little to make any difference. I have started a slow-going non-political project for improving the quality of Wikipedia, but i am the only member at the moment.--Daanschr 09:48, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
I am positive again on Citizendium. Citizendium has got a massive attention in the media worldwide and already has over a million counts on Google. It could very likely become a new kind of Wikipedia, but then expert-friendly. I would advise you to join the ranks if you are fed up with Wikipedia.--Daanschr 15:24, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
There's a subtle ironic humor in all of this: it very well may be that Originators and Authorities (per above proposed taxonomy) may not qualify as expert editors per criteria presented by Citizendium (I don't know the criteria, I'm speaking in general using that as a fixed point). Since articles such as adaptive grammar one assumes will migrate over there, and since some expert editors who are originators in that field might not be considered (by some external criteria) as being expert enough to comment on the field (for instance, I might not be classified as an expert editor in that field by some hypothetical criteria), the humorous situation arises where the article might evolve into complete and absolute poppycock (relative to the field), because someone thinks "adaptive grammar" means something it does not, but is qualified enough to be quite authoritatively wrong given some external criteria).
It would only take one immutable and non-negotiable criterion to shut out the authorities in a particular subfield to totally end up with well-formed nonsense over time.
In this sense, I think the Wikipedia model, while complex and chaotic, stands a better chance of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. -- QTJ 18:32, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
You are right to be sceptible. It would be could to keep high educated contributors on Wikipedia, otherwise the quality would only get more worse.
The definition of expert is very broad on Citizendium. Anyone can apply to it. There is no education needed for it. Even experts in Pokémon are allowed. However, there is guidance from editors who are of high credential at the moment. The overall goal of Citizendium is to represent all knowledge, with more quality compared to Wikipedia. I was sceptic of the use of the concept of neutrality, i preferred objectivity instead. The NPOV-policy has remained in Citizendium, which is supported by experts with decades of experience in managing large groups of proffesionals. A problem for Citizendium could be that it will become too exclusive, for experts with their own opinion of what objectivity is, for those who are against censoreship of offensive material and for amateurs who want to keep the freedom of editing they have on Wikipedia. What i dislike of Citizendium is that it seems like some kind of protestant churchsplit. Suppose that more projects will start like Citizendium, then the goal of Wikipedia and Citizendium to gather all knowledge will become impossible. I am considering to stay on Wikipedia at the least and to edit on Citizendium as well if it becomes a succes. At the moment, Citizendium only has a few hundred participants, but with a high amount of specialists and experts, to use your classification.--Daanschr 11:52, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
It seems to me that if the quality of the articles at C.*m ends up being higher, given the license involved that allows such a fork in the first place, some may end up pasting what they consider the higher quality articles back here, creating a feedback loop, while losing the contributor history that brought the article to that more stable state. Might need to invite a 3FR (Three Feedback Rule). If all that matters is the quality of the articles, I'm sure everyone will figure it all out in any such eventuality. -- QTJ 16:07, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

You are right. Allthough POV-pushers could still prefer some older version. This will be a mess.--Daanschr 21:29, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

I have little knowledge of the politics within Wikipedia. What do Jimbo Wales and the other leaders of Wikipedia think about the problem of expert retention?--Daanschr 19:09, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Another example is when expert user:askolnick got involved with Natasha Demkina. He got a bad treatment from POV-pushers and has left WP. Another editor was Hillman or cHillman. I don't know if he was an expert on any particular subject, but he was a very good editor. He got a very bad treatment and left. Bubba73 (talk), 22:01, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
I read about the case of user:askolnick. This should be a problem for the leaders of Wikipedia. Wouldn't it be possible to get to a compromise with sympathetic non-experts in order to prevent these events from happening in the future? (I am new with the politics of Wikipedia)--Daanschr 08:23, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
He's gone and the pro-pseudoscience POV-pushers are still around. There's an important arbitration going on now with different people, and I think the outcome will be important. Bubba73 (talk), 14:54, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
Here is that Arb:[4]. It proposes that experts can be recognized in some high-level scientific articles. Bubba73 (talk), 14:58, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia should watch out not to become too bureaucratic. It is not only important to make the just rules, but also to maintain them. Besides, all problems can't be solved by maintaining the rules. Culture is very important next to standardization.--Daanschr 19:43, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

I am thinking about making a taxonomy of the institutes of Wikipedia (article, talk page, WikiProject etc.) and of the different kind of contributors to Wikipedia (experts, non-experts, administrators, pov-pushers, vandalizers etc.). I will try to seek what kind of intersts these supposed groups of contributors could have. The results of this taxonomy could be the basic for a program that will be used in negotiations to support the interests of experts. The goal of this political proces will be to shape unity among the experts and to make compromises with non-experts. I request that a part of this talk page will be archived, so it will be less chaotic.--Daanschr 11:24, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
You might consider this as a model? User:QTJ/Wikipedia_Humor#The_Neowikipediatxologicifationalism_Movement -- QTJ 04:37, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

LOL! Thanks to Bubba, i have the idea that politics is performed elsewhere. I once was part of a movement that tried to start a worldgovernment. Their proposals were even more moronic then the ones in your link and they were dead serious.--Daanschr 07:48, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

I have a problem with the lack of debate on talk pages. I tried to improve the article History of the World, which can't be edited by one person. But the other participants were not seriously interrested in the contents. The debate was only on if singularity should be included and if the name of the article should be changed. Now, the article is still a mess. Or what about the History of Europe article. It could be great in theory, but it lacks serious contributors. I have written something about the Renaissance, which has been destroyed by new users, but the article still lacks in quality. Europe seems like an important topic to me.

Your ideas of neutrality and assuming good faith doesn't seem to be very realistic. I didn't made fun of it, so i hope you want to take me more serious in the future.--Daanschr 07:59, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

I use deconstructive "humor" sometimes to arrive at an understanding myself, in order to get a deeper understanding of a situation. Often, to talk seriously about something, one must have a deep sense of more than its surface, and approaching humor about it is part of that journey. That said, after some heavy duty analysis, I am coming to see the wikisystem not so much as being systemically flawed, but being an attempt at a non-cooperative game. It has "rules" (let's just called guidelines that for now, even though there are no "rules") that self-acknowledge competion -- if there were no competition, there would be no guidelines for how to handle "disagreements". The whole system has a single goal, to represent human knowledge in its entirey, but the goal is not absolute, and "winning" is a matter of degree, not a final true/false state. Each editor represents a fitness function towards that goal, and the "collective" consensus represents a meta-fitness-function over that (higher order). If we let be the attainment of that goal at any given time, we can see that the reaching of that goal moves in time. Rules such as AGF appear to be in place to attempt to make it a cooperative game as much as possible, but thanks to ignore all rules, that is not an absolute. An attempt has been made via AGF to negate the effect of people having agendas, or misrepresenting their "play". The assumption of good faith tends towards making the game cooperative, where everyone is on the up and up towards the goal -- but it's fuzzy because it isn't an absolute.
Further, if we use adaptive set theory, and define "additions" and "deletions" and "modifications" and to mean "consensus arrived at after much debate" and to mean "consensus arrived at without debate", eventually we can end up with a Turing complete model of the system.
Why After a debate, typically an article contains only what both sides agree upon (knowledge-set intersection). Without a debate () typically an article contains whatever everyone on both sides add (knowledge-set union). Notability and reliable source rules define what is and what is not in the knowledge-set as available for insertion. Debates about what is and what is not notable and/or reliable are higher-order intersections and unions that affect what is and is not available for the final knowledge-set operations.
There are elements that I've identified so far that imply that the system overall is subject to the Halting problem, and its ultimate success or failure is undecidable. I haven't yet modeled each and every subtlety, but I conjecture that it might be possible to eliminate or modify certain processes such that it's still very powerful, without being Turing complete, and thus success or failure is at least decidable. For instance, it may be that once a debate has occurred, as long as no new insertions into the knowledge set occur, and then the knowledge-set intersection occurs, Turing completeness is not reached in the system. This would imply that at some point, an article must remain "fixed". What fitness function declares that fixity point? An expert? Consensus? Consensus guided by an expert? A coin flip? Chicken entrail analysis? It may be that each of these has its merits -- just so long as fixity is arrived at somehow. -- QTJ 15:59, 1 November 2006 (UTC)
Ahem: executive summary of that above: "It may be that the way to retain experts is to allow articles that have reached a stable state after real debate to remain fixed, such that they don't then evolve into WP:BOLLOCKS." -- QTJ 16:03, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

I don't know for sure, but i think that you try to say that an article or Wikipedia in general can never be finite. In that i agree. I started a WikiProject for organized debate to get debates started on mutually read literature. At the end of the debate, the article will be improved. Improving the article is primarily meant as a method to structure the debate. The quality of the debate itself is more important then the article. However, for those who didn't attend to the debate, the article will give some information, which could be better acquired by reading the literature. This would create an institute which could be of a better quality then a common encyclopedia in bookform. At the moment, this high-quality style of debating is lacking. In my imagination, bookclubs would appear all over the world, with the purpose to get books from major libraries, who will be discussed within the bookclub and then online with a worldwide gathering of participants. This is just a dream of course.--Daanschr 19:23, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

Your interpretation of what I said is pretty well it. To get rid of the Halting Problem, one would (I suspect) have to get rid of length-increasing changes once an article was considered "good enough". Length increasing changes could result in a never halting situation of instability in the whole system. While knowledge does change (and Wikipedia appears to be about knowledge, not truth), how often it changes is perhaps misrepresented in the wiki process in general. Knowledge doesn't change just because something just happened and was reported on CNN, for instance. Hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes, and truly notable shifts in knowledge are rarer than the wiki model pressupposes. While one must remain on the bleeding-edge to capture all knowledge -- that doesn't mean that knowledge changes every time a new reader suddenly becomes an editor via the "Edit this page" button. The fitness functions (the editors) that judge whether or not an article is complete are both the vanguard, perhaps, to self-correcting blunders, but they are also a potential cause of bollockscreep. By your proposed system, at the very least, new additions to stable articles would require that the new fitness functions at least have done their homework in a systematic way. (I could provide a diff that demonstrates this, but it would be unecessarily pointing at someone else's mistake of haste making waste, so I won't.) -- QTJ 19:41, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

I like the possibility of users to be able to edit immediately without any barriers. This and Google are what made Wikipedia of a succes. I am afraid that Wikipedia would sink into oblivion once this institute is abolished. The ability to edit immediately is a great recruiting system. My WikiProject for debates tries to add a new institute next to all existing institutes. For me succes is already reached when i can organize only one debate with another user and we have both read all the literature, but i hope of course that it will grow. It is mainly aimed at improving articles for social sciences, but i know that all knowledge could be controversial even among experts of a worldwide fame.--Daanschr 20:28, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

Please see...[edit]

Wikipedia:Notability (science), yet another proposal in this vein. --EngineerScotty 19:45, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

Some further thoughts[edit]

After hanging around for a while and doing some more editing and writing around the joint ... I added something to my user pages that pertains, I believe, to expert retention. Granted -- it's only my particular perspective, but there you go. -- QTJ 18:11, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

Experts, Truth and Knowledge: Yet Another Problem[edit]

I've seen content deleted from various articles by real experts who sincerely believe that if a scientific theory has been rejected or disproved, or if they think it is of dubious scientific value, then it should be deleted from Wikipedia. I think they are missing the point. Presenting a rejected theory does not mean misleading the readers or endorsing it. It is part of the scientific process; it should be presented as such: relevant information, albeit false or wrong. I've seen this problem in the discussion about microtubules, for example, where the paragraph about Roger Penrose's (largely rejected) theory of quantum consciousness (which involves microtubules) has been repeatedly deleted by matter experts. Some of them have expressed frustration about "having" to repeatedly delete that paragraph. The problem here is that although Roger Penrose's theory has been highly criticized (and rejected) by most experts, the books exposing this theory have been read by thousands of persons since they were published. So what should we do in Wikipedia? Is any scientific theory so untouchable that it deserves to be erased and forgotten forever? It is akin to a case of scientific snubbery. And yes, most published theories (even the most bizarre or exotic) have been reviewed or criticized by peers; this provides enough content for properly presenting them in Wikipedia. In the same way, should we also bury disproved theories such as Lamarckism and the Ptolemaic system because they were proved wrong a few centuries ago? If they are wrong, or if they have been replaced by a better theory, do they deserve to be erased and forgotten? I don't think so. Building an encyclopedia is not just about covering the "absolute truth" and the "most glorious achievements of science". It should also cover the hoaxes, dead ends, tragic failures and embarrassments. Why? Because they exist. Some experts don't seem to understand this point... they should understand that knowledge is not necessarily a synonym of truth. Talking about a failure doesn't mean endorsing it. Hugo Dufort 06:51, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

  • There are serious but discarded theories about mostly anything, and even more crackpot theories and hoaxes. None belong to articles that aim to present the current scientific consensus, otherwise every scientific article would be loaded with nonsense (with disclaimers): just think about magnetism or genetics for instance. The most notable of these theories already have a place in Wikipedia, for instance in articles dealing with the history of the field. The Penrose theory is already mentioned in several places in Wikipedia and has even its own article, like Lamarckism, the Ptolemaic system and the Piltdown man. It doesn't mean that it should be mentioned in every related field because fans of said theory/hoax say so and are very vocal about it. The Piltdown Man story belongs to an article about itself, to articles about famous hoaxes and to articles about the public perception of human evolution, but not to an article about the science itself. This is less scientific snubbery than proper housekeeping. --Gilles Tran 13:35, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
I'm just talking about keeping the Wikipedia content connected. Of course we won't fill the page on evolution with Lamarckism. The Penrose case is just an example; a single sentence with a link would do. But some experts think that even that is too much, that it is "polluting" the page. There ought to be a reasonable way of keeping the content rich and interconnected. As for the microtubules, a friend of mine was recently searching the Penrose theory, because he wanted to validate what he had read somewhere else. He found the "microtubule" page in Wikipedia, but no answer to his questions. By the way, it's not about "fans of crackpot theories being vocal" as you state it. It's about covering the field, even though it involves its fringes. Hugo Dufort 17:29, 20 November 2006 (UTC)