Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I was talking to someone about Wikipedia today in person, which I rarely do. And I realized:

I love wikipedia and am constantly intrigued by it. But I really don't give a shit about the Wikimedia Foundation. They only have a limited impact on the nuts and bolts, anyway.

Partly because of the name of this blog, I'd always sort of felt obligated to cover the internal politics -- I wanted it to at least be theoretically possible for someone to get all their w'pedia information from right here (yessir).

Well, screw that. The politics is boring and depressing. It's all the unpleasantness of real life socializing without any of the warm fuzziness.

Remember that study showing that people were more likely to misinterpret email messages, and more likely to ascribe negative emotions to the authors? Something happens with text communication -- the mirror neurons get turned off; the natural social instincts get muted. And when that effect happens at every node of the community web, when a whole bunch of hyperverbal encyclopedists are only connected to each other via letters on screens, things get unmoored. (How else to explain the rise of wikipedia review?)

Anyway. I'm done covering the foundation. My next post will be about generating rock album covers that never existed.


Anonymous said...

I know where your coming from. For starters, I don't support all the minor language projects that the foundation supports and the petty politics while unavoidable are still a side-show that can distract editors.

I've started to think that the editing community needs to marginalise the foundation as much as possible, but I don't know enough about its activities.

llywrch said...

Ben, that's probably the wisest thing to do. I'm reminded of an old saying about sausages and watching how they are made.

On the other hand, a Foundation that actually supported its volunteers in creating and policing content -- as well as informing & educating them -- could only benefit the projects. For example, one of the perennial headaches of being an Admin are wikilayering wankers -- people threatening to sue over content, actions, etc.

We're constantly told that the people in the shack on the other side of the servers are working hard on our behalf, but when anyone investigates what those people are doing its far easier to learn about their misbehavior & follies than what they are doing right.

I'd like to have a better way of dealing with the Foundation than either ignoring them completely -- or getting worked up over every new screwup that comes up, trivial or important, real or imaginary.


Anonymous said...

If one day Wikipedia is no more there, because nobody is hosting the servers I am sure you will agree that maybe we need someone governing this.

Another critical topic are the legal issues. If there isn't anyone answering on those they will take us down.

Educating and communicating about the projects for the general public is important because when they support us (and you) we are far more difficult to put down.

I agree, politics is boring but unfortunately necessary if we want to keep Wikipedia and other project online.

Ben Yates said...

I know that the foundation is necessary; I'm just going to pretend they don't exist and leave it to others to talk about them.