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[ox-en] Criticism on Wikipedia governance process


People here might remember that I once said that the perceived quality
problems in Wikipedia and their resolution are a very interesting
problem and the outcome will probably shed some light on peer
governance in general.

The following from Michel is published on

and for me is one contribution to that governance process.



--- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< ---

The Wikipedia is often hailed as a prime example of peer production and peer
governance, an example of how a community can self-govern very complex
processes. Including by me.

But it is also increasingly showing the dark side and pitfalls of purely
informal approaches, especially when they scale.

Wikipedia is particularly vulnerable because it's work is not done in teams,
but by individuals with rather weak links. At the same time it is also a
very complex project, with consolidating social norms and rules, and with an
elite that knows them, vs. many occasional page writers who are ignorant of
them. When that system then instaures a scarcity rule, articles have to be
'notable' or they can be deleted. It creates a serious imbalance.

While the Wikipedia remains a remarkable achievement, and escapes any easy
characterization of its qualities because of its sheer vastness, there must
indeed be hundreds of thousands of volunteers doing good work on articles,
it has also created a power structure, but it is largely 'invisible',
opaque, and therefore particularly vulnerable to the well-known tyranny of
structurelessness <>.

Consider the orginal thoughts of Jo Freeman:

"*Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a
'structureless' group. Any group of people of whatever nature coming
together for any length of time, for any purpose, will inevitably structure
itself in some fashion. The structure may be flexible, it may vary over
time, it may evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power and resources over
the members of the group. But it will be formed regardless of the abilities,
personalities and intentions of the people involved. The very fact that we
are individuals with different talents, predispositions and backgrounds
makes this inevitable. Only if we refused to relate or interact on any basis
whatsoever could we approximate 'structurelessness' and that is not the
nature of a human group*."

Consider also this

"*Every group of people with an unusual goal - good, bad, or silly - will
trend toward the cult attractor unless they make a constant effort to resist
it. You can keep your house cooler than the outdoors, but you have to run
the air conditioner constantly, and as soon as you turn off the electricity
- give up the fight against entropy - things will go back to "normal".*

*In the same sense that every thermal differential wants to equalize itself,
and every computer program wants to become a collection of ad-hoc patches,
every Cause wants to be a cult. It's a high-entropy state into which the
system trends, an attractor in human psychology.*

*Cultishness is quantitative, not qualitative. The question is not "Cultish,
yes or no?" but "How much cultishness and where?*"

The Wikicult <> website asserts that this
stage has already been reached:

"*With the systems, policies, procedures, committees, councils, processes
and appointed authorities that run Wikipedia, a lot of intrinsic power goes
around. While most serious contributors devotedly continue to contribute to
the implied idealism, there are those with the communication and political
skill to place themselves in the right place at the right time and establish
even more apparent power. Out of these, a cabal inevitably forms; the rest,
as they say, is history*."

Specialized sites have sprung up, such as the Wikipedia
monitoring power abuse in general, or in particular

The Wikipedia Review offers an interesting summary of the various criticisms
that have been leveled agains the Wikipedia, which I'm reproducing here
below, but I'm adding links that document these processes as well. Spend on
time on reading the allegations, their documentation, and make up your own

My conclusion though is that major reforms will be needed to insure the
Wikipedia governance is democratic and remains so.

*1. Wikipedia disrespects and disregards scholars, experts, scientists, and
others with special knowledge.*

Wikipedia specifically disregards authors with special knowledge, expertise,
or credentials. There is no way for a real scholar to distinguish himself or
herself from a random anonymous editor merely claiming scholarly
credentials, and thus no claim of credentials is typically believed. Even
when credentials are accepted, Wikipedia affords no special regard for
expert editors contributing in their fields. This has driven most expert
editors away from editing Wikipedia in their fields. Similarly, Wikipedia
implements no controls that distinguish mature and educated editors from
immature and uneducated ones.

Critique of Wikipedia's open source ideology, as opposed to free software

*2. Wikipedia's culture of anonymous editing and administration results in a
lack of responsible authorship and management.*

Wikipedia editors may contribute as IP addresses, or as an ever-changing set
of pseudonyms. There is thus no way of determining conflicts of interest,
canvassing, or other misbehaviour in article editing. Wikipedia's
adminsitrators are similarly anonymous, shielding them from scrutiny for
their actions. They additionally can hide the history of their editing (or
that of others).

*3. Wikipedia's administrators have become an entrenched and over-powerful
elite, unresponsive and harmful to authors and contributors. *

Without meaningful checks and balances on administrators, administrative
abuse is the norm, rather than the exception, with blocks and bans being
enforced by fiat and whim, rather than in implementation of policy. Many
well-meaning editors have been banned simply on suspicion of being
previously banned users, without any transgression, while others have been
banned for disagreeing with a powerful admin's editorial point of view.
There is no clear-cut code of ethics for administrators, no truly
independent process leading to blocks and bans, no process for appeal that
is not corrupted by the imbalance of power between admin and blocked editor,
and no process by which administrators are reviewed regularly for

Overview of developments<>

The blog Nonbovine ruminations critically

The Wikipedia has stopped growing because of the deletionists:

Wikipedia's abusive bio-deletion process: case by Tony

*4. Wikipedia's numerous policies and procedures are not enforced equally on
the community ? popular or powerful editors are often exempted*.

Administrators, in particular, and former administrators, are frequently
allowed to trangress (or change!) Wikipedia's numerous "policies", such as
those prohibiting personal attacks, prohibiting the release of personal
information about editors, and those prohibiting collusion in editing.

The undemocratic practices of its investigative

A personal experience<>

The badsites list <> of censored sites
belonging to Wikipedia's enemies

Lack of transparency and accountability <>

The Judd Bagley<>case

InformationLiberation on Wikipedia's totalitarian

5. *Wikipedia's quasi-judicial body, the Arbitration Committee (ArbCom) is
at best incompetent and at worst corrupt*.

ArbCom holds secret proceedings, refuses to be bound by precedent, operates
on non-existant or unwritten rules, and does not allow equal access to all
editors. It will reject cases that threaten to undermine the Wikipedia
status quo or that would expose powerful administrators to sanction, and
will move slowly or not at all (in public) on cases it is discussing in

Monitoring of ArbCom's

Summary of criticisms<>

The case of the secret mailing list for top insiders <http:///>

*6. The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), the organization legally responsible for
Wikipedia, is opaque, is poorly managed, and is insufficiently independent
from Wikipedia's remaining founder and his business interests.*

The WMF lacks a mechanism to address the concerns of outsiders, resulting in
an insular and socially irresponsible internal culture. Because of
inadequate oversight and supervision, Wikimedia has hired incompetent and
(in at least one case) criminal employees. Jimmy Wales' for-profit business
Wikia benefits in numerous ways from its association with the non-profit

The Foundation's

Wikimedia chairwoman rejects demand for

Contact: projekt

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