Ethics and Freedom: on and around Wikipedia

    Understanding the processes taking place on Wikipedia among people who are not actively involved in the project is at a rather mythological level. I will try in a series of topics to highlight several issues that cause the most bewilderment of the public, and overgrown in connection with this a large number of myths and legends. I will start with a brief answer to the question asked in this blog quite recently: Will the Russian Wikipedia moderate the Internet? . No, it will not. However, the question is posed incorrectly. About what exactly is behind it, what is happening and discussed on Wikipedia - below.

    The basics

    Let's start with the basics. Wikipedia is an Internet project with a specific goal: creating an encyclopedic resource that seeks to complete, accurate and neutral presentation of information achieved through the joint work of many participants on the same content. In this, it differs from many other communities and Internet projects: first of all, from various communication platforms (whether it be FIDO, IRC channels, web forums, LOR or Habr) that do not have such a goal. In this sense, Wikipedia is much closer to Linux Kernel - however, with one major difference. Linux Kernel can be ruled only by Linus Goods. On Wikipedia, anyone can edit any article. At least until the opposite decision is made. Our story is about how and when such decisions are made.

    Keywords here: teamwork and collaboration. They sound great. So it seems: you wrote an article of two sentences, saved it, went to bed, and woke up in the morning - and in its place is a beautiful, complete, well-structured and designed article, finalized by other people. In practice, this often happens. But there is a flip side to the coin. You worked on the article for a long time, spent a lot of time, wrote, published, contentedly went to bed, and woke up in the morning - and you see that some participant came into the article, redrawn and redid everything in his own way, deleted a bunch of your wonderful text, added a bunch his. And now you need to come to an agreement with this participant and seek consensus on how the article should look. (You cannot say “this is my article, do not dare to touch it!” - Wikipedia is based onworking together - in particular, this allows us to constantly improve articles and make them more neutral.) Under these conditions, it becomes extremely important a) to be sure that the opponent has made corrections to the article because he wants to do the best, and not for in order to, say, annoy you personally; b) to come to an agreement - to conduct a polite and correct discussion. Obviously, if the discussion begins with personal attacks in the style of “you are a fool” - then it will most likely continue with the words “you are a fool” - which obviously will not bring the participants closer to any result.

    Therefore, Wikipedia has fairly strict rules regarding the interaction of participants among themselves. You can not insult. You can’t be rude. You can’t get personal. A lot of what is impossible. By the standards of any forum, the scope, of course, is small - but we didn’t get together just to chat and clarify who is cooler - but to achieve some kind of result, right?


    Now imagine the situation: the participant corrects “your” article, which you spent a lot of time and effort on, so that you don’t like it (but avoiding gross violations - say, without deleting all of its contents); but at the same time, let's say, on my personal blog (or on some more popular site), he’s watering you with abusive swearing, and declares that, say, he will get you his edits until you leave the project. And you know that. (For example, accidentally stumbled upon a blog, or someone sent a link - it doesn’t matter.) And you know for sure what it is. (For example, his blog has a link from a personal Wikipedia page.) Can you then conduct a constructive and polite discussion with him and assume that he is acting for the good of the project, and not with the aim of harming you? Unlikely. Even if you can, it’s not very long, because the lack of good intentions will be obvious to you. And if he not only insults, but also threatens - “if you roll back my revision again - you will miss your teeth”? Most likely, you will spit over time, and throw your article. And when you see what the results of your work turn into that you don’t have the opportunity to defend, you are unlikely to write anything new. Obviously, this will not benefit the project - it will not be long to lose all constructive participants.

    What to do?

    But the truth is what to do? If you contact the administrators only on the basis that the participant is editing "your" article, and you do not like it, they will not be able to do anything. Edit articles - not a violation. If these edits do not cause obvious harm, and not only please you - they will tell you - "negotiate with your opponent." And that’s it. Nobody will block anyone. Your “offender” will continue to make edits. Of course, you can complain to the Abuse Team LJ (if insults are to LJ), the police and the Hague court - but this will not return faith in the good intentions of the opponent, and his actions will not become more constructive. Yes, and continue aggression on another site, say, after the close of the LiveJournal account, no one will interfere with him.

    Actually, if we believe that Wikipedia administrators cannot take into account the actions of Wikipedia participants outside Wikipedia that directly relate to Wikipedia, then the conscientious participant from the example above turns out to be completely defenseless. To prevent this, Wikipedia administrators are forced to take into accountthat kind of factors. Because there were already those who wanted to exploit such defenselessness - and, of course, there are still. Therefore, in some situations, we are forced, among other things, to block the participant, relying (usually - among other things) on his actions outside Wikipedia - but clearly relating to Wikipedia, its participants and the processes taking place in it. This insult in itself may not stop, but at least remove their cause - the disagreement in the project; and also removes the need for a bona fide participant to interact with a bona fide.

    In fact, the described situation is only one of the possible scenarios in which administrative intervention based on “external” information is required. There are others - there is no way to discuss them in detail now, and it is hardly possible to list all such scenarios.


    A small summary. No, Wikipedia is not going to moderate the entire Internet. This is not our function, and we do not have the resources for this. We are of little interest in the terms in which Wikipedia participants communicate with their friends, whom they ban, whom they praise, and who they criticize. As long as it does not affect the work of Wikipedia. But systematic insults, personal attacks, threats, persecution of Wikipedia participants in connection with their work on Wikipedia, attempts to “survive” a participant from the project, or otherwise harm him, is unacceptable regardless of the means by which technical and information means such actions are committed - whether it be e-mail, IRC, blogs, twitter - whatever. We cannot assume the good intentions of the participants who perform such actions, and in some situations are forced to limit their participation in the project technically.

    That’s the whole story.

    This text is licensed under CC BY 3.0

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