Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Friday, December 07, 2007

There have been a few minor scandals recently -- allegations of a "secret mailing list" for powerful admins; amassing of "secret evidence" that, like McCarthy's, turns out to be totally unconvincing; some unpleasantness with the CEO of Overstocked.

As usual for this type of thing, it's completely impossible to figure out what's actually going on. If you like, you can read the authoritative decision from on high, which is accurate as far as it goes but utterly mind-numbing; the Register article, which is riveting but heavily slanted, or the comments in this slashdot thread, which are alright at providing some context. This is probably the best coverage so far.

Frankly, you're best off just waiting for some coverage from actual journalists like Andrew Lih or Noam Cohen. (My overriding feeling right now is pissed-off-ness that I've wasted my morning researching this boring, demoralizing story.)

Until then, here are some cliffs notes:

1. Powerful Wikipedians have a bunker mentality, perhaps because they've been stalked.

(Update: Like I said, admins should not be anonymous in the first place. An "anonymous public figure" is an oxymoron that the universe will attempt to correct.)

2. Adminship has become something it was never intended to be (predictably, because people will use the power they're given)

3. There many be unhealthy social forces at work within Wikipedia. There's the potential for a vicious cycle wherein good contributors are driven away and the climate gets worse, but the sky's not falling just yet.


brain-drain said...

I don't know about you, but 'evidence' that someone is out to destroy wikipedia because they're a capable editor sounds like something straight out of the McCarthy era.

Let's not forget the 'delete everything remotely webmedia-related' school of thought.

Wikipedia is busy collapsing under the weight of its own bureaucracy. Is it any wonder that so many people are driven the nutcase collective aka 'wikipedia watch' when they're exposed to cliquish insanity that is the inner party^W.

It was nice while it lasted.

Ben Yates said...

sounds like something straight out of the McCarthy era

You're right. I've edited the post; I hadn't done enough research to chose an appropriate quote.

llywrch said...

News Flash! The three observations, presented in the "Cliff Notes" genre, that Ben stated are blindingly obvious to everyone who participates in this project.

What is the real surprise is that he had to tell people these observations.

This is the point where someone says, "Nothing to see, move along" -- but that's been said far too often on Wikipedia far too early. By "too early", I mean before the event has actually been processed, & those who have no idea just what happened (about 90% of the active contributors) have been given a chance to contribute their opinion, right or wrong.

There's still some shouting that needs to be made, & then this truly will be over.


Dan said...

re: "Powerful Wikipedians have a bunker mentality (perhaps because they've been stalked)."

Or they've learned that playing the "stalking card" gives them an always-available means of ducking from all criticism without the pesky task of actually refuting it logically, and an all-purpose smear to label everybody who disagrees with them. To this end, they've defined "stalking" and "harassment" so loosely that even a comment they don't like on their user talk page can qualify.

SWATJester said...

Critical news flash: Wikipedia is......the same as it's always been.

Brain-drain appears quite alarmist. IT's not going to collapse under the weight of its own bureaucracy simply because it is possible to contribute while bypassing the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy can only get to the vicious cycle of (the bureaucracy exists to support the bureaucracy) if you HAVE to go through it. But you can stay logged out and contribute, or log in and not participate. Even if you get blocked after the first edit: you've still contributed. Thus, the bureaucracy can't stop the message, if you want to phrase it that way.