From Jimbo Wales' user talk page (en:wikipedia)
Since you were the last person having modified Benevolent dictator which means a wise person, I suppose you were still not completely at ease with that description of your role in Wikipedia. Anyway, just to notify I posted some possible alternatives to BDFL on that page. Would you care to have a look, and give an indication whether one of these proposed alternatives corresponds better with how you experience your own role? --Francis Schonken 13:27, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I am more comfortable with the analogy to the British monarch, i.e. my power should be (and is) limited, and should fade over time. Wikipedia is not an anarchy, though it has anarchistic features. Wikipedia is not a democracy, though it has democratic features. Wikipedia is not an aristocracy, though it has aristocratic features. Wikipedia is not a monarchy, though it has monarchical features.
The situation in nl.wikipedia.org is probably a good example of how I can play a productive role through the judicious exercise of power. My role there is mostly just as advisor to people in terms of just trying to help people think about the bigger picture and how we can find the best ways to interact and get along to get our incredibly important work done.
But it is also a role of "constitutional" importance, in the sense that everyone who is party to the discussion can feel comfortable that whatever agreements are reached will be *binding*, that there is a higher enforcement mechanism. It's not up to me to *impose* a solution, nor is it up to me directly to *enforce* a solution chosen by the community, but I do play a role in guaranteeing with my personal promise that valid solutions decided by the community in a reasonable fashion will be enforced by someone.
Notice that very little of *that* involves actual power. Rather, it involves respect for me and my role, and that respect last only so long as I act thoughtfully and with fairness and justice to everyone, and in accordance with the broad consensus of the community.
And notice, too, that I believe such authority should be replaced as time goes along by institutions within the community, such as for example the ArbCom in en.wikipedia.org, or by community votes in de.wikipedia.org, etc.
We have very few problems, other than isolated things, with sysop abuse or cabals, even in smaller languages, and in part because everyone is quite aware that I would take whatever actions necessary to ensure due process in all parts of wikipedia, to the best of my ability.
None of this is like being a dictator, benevolent or otherwise. Jimbo Wales 01:07, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)
- Thank you very much for these insightful considerations. Yes, this is also how I perceive things. Maybe indeed we should stop here, and not try to find a "name" for such role (whether this role is for temporary use or otherwise). Nonetheless (yes I know, from this point on I might seem to be nagging, which I don't want to, so please forgive me) I suppose giving it a name is useful. People will want to give this role some sort of label (I hate labels...). Refusing any label might seem the best thing to do, but I have some sort of impression that then you get a label anyway: you'll be named GodKing again before you know it, or BDFL (like it is now), people lacking a more satisfactory name. Even Meta seems to be insisting on defining (and thus naming) all roles in the MediaWiki concept. Note that I don't think that by definition it is you that has to give the name, nonetheless this is one of these many advantages of the Wiki(pedia) concept that I can sit down here and have this exchange of thoughts with you over a cup of coffee (or whatever drink you have at hand).
- Name-giving-wise the piece you wrote above goes direction of Constitutional Monarch, which I think an abomination (name-wise, not necessarily content-wise). I don't even think I want to discuss this as a possibility. Note that the last thing a Constitutional Monarch (like the British, Belgian, Dutch, etc queens & kings) can do is help to engender a constitution.
- Or Constitutional Monarch with a Ceremonial Function (which they have in some countries in Northern Europe) - even worse name-wise.
- Still think the idea of what you described above best corresponds with how I always understood Eminence Grise (but I still have no idea whether you'd take offense of the grise, which is your good right; or would think a French expression is never going to work).
- Thinking about Deus ex Machina again, I now think it was a witty proposition, but more witticism than possibility.
- --Francis Schonken 14:17, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)
(Continued...) - From Francis Schonken's User Talk page (en:wikipedia)
I enjoyed our conversation, but I was wondering about one last thing. Why the strong opposition to the terminology of constitutional monarch? I personally find it to be the best analogy. Jimbo Wales 05:14, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)
- Yes, this is one of these very complex things. There is not one single predominant reason why the name of Constitutional Monarch has some uneasy connotations in my eye. I'll try to give here some ideas. None of this is absolute, but it tries to give some context of how this might be perceived.
- However you look at it a Constitutional Monarch is a King. Most of the Kings and Queens one speaks of today are Constitutional Monarchs. I'm not sure if even most of the people are much aware that there are (or used to be) Kings & Queens not being Constitutional Monarchs. In other words the difference will have to be explained many, many times. Which also means, that the name would not be clear at face value. I don't think everything should be clear at face value (god forbid...), but for names, if one has to add an explanation every time it is used this appears not to be working all that good. I still think that was one of your major objections against benevolent dictator, one has to explain time and again it is only a tongue-in-cheek approach, nothing to do with the "historical" benevolent dictators, which were not nice guys as a whole.
- Did you ever read that fascinating book(let) Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (see also Wikiquote - Quotes from The Little Prince)? It has such nice insightfull thoughts about what it means to be a king (constitutional or otherwise), or any other type of important person, which, in French can make synonym to adult ("grande personne"). I translate (badly, but as good as I can) you here the paragraph where he sums it up (Chapter XVI):
- Earth is not a planet like any other! It counts three hundred and eleven kings (not forgetting, of course, black kings), seven thousand geographers, nine hundred thousand businessmen, seven and a half million drunkards, three hundred and eleven million vain people, this is to say, about two milliard of grandes personnes.
- Perception of Constitutional Monarch is anyway different in Europe than in the US. In Belgium, The Netherlands, the UK, etc... we live under Constitutional Monarchs. Spain has a Constitutional Monarch installed by a (not so benevolent!) dictator. France got rid of their Kings some two centuries ago, and would be upset by the shear idea of having a Constitutional Monarch replace their presidential system. In Europe the idea of a "president" would be the more neutral name, compared to the idea of a Constitutional Monarch.
- Monarchs always have a connotation of "heirs" to the power, and the vile and other struggles to become the heir apparent, or the Monarch after the death of the previous one. Even an innocent-looking country like Belgium had something of that not more than two decades ago: the younger brother to the heir apparent appeared not to be all that intelligent. The king at that time seemed to be pushing towards changing the constitution, so that also women could become Monarch in Belgium (which was not the case yet then). This would out-range the younger brother to the heir apparent to something like the 17th place for ever becoming king (of course the official reason was equality between sexes). To give another example, think about the struggle for power between Queen Victoria and her son Bertie. Such power-struggles can extend beyond the actual heirs to the trone, and still have a polluting effect on the institution the Monarch represents, think e.g. about the Camilla Parker-Bowles vs. Lady Di power struggle not all that long ago. This damaged the British Monarchy once again. The connotation is that these power-struggles are in no way a reflection of what the people think as being the more rational choice, but that it is a struggle high-up behind the scenes, for mere personal objectives of the Monarchs and princes involved. Not the kind of image Wikipedia wants to propagate. In a presidential system there is at least some idea of a choice or approval being made by the people concerned. In other words, that the one exerting the power has to live up to the expectations, and can lose this power if he/she flunks it completely. That is something you described also as something you think self-evident for yourself (that you have to do the work, to earn the respect given to you). For presidents there is at least "impeachment" (however imperfect such procedure might be, the possibility is there); note that for Constitutional Monarchs there is nothing near to that idea, they are all politically untouchable. When a prince in the Netherlands was entangled in a major financial scandal some decades ago, accepting large sums of bribe money, constitutionally his position was protected, that could not even be placed in question. The "contrat social" ideals of Jean Jacques Rousseau, are not put into practice all that easily for Constitutional Monarchs, as shown by over two centuries of history after that idea originated...
- What I already mentioned on your user talk page: a Constitutional Monarch is not allowed to have any influence in the making of constitutions (e.g. in the example of the previous paragraph: the king of Belgium's major fault in the whole story was that he tried to influence the constitution - this was the fault that was received very harshly by the press at that time, because everyone agreed he was a very good king, but that was an unmistakable fault). As far as your role is concerned one of the most vital things you do is helping in putting up constitutions. The name Constitutional Monarch might be somewhat ambiguous in that respect (be assured that such ambiguity would fire back sooner or later).
- Well, these are some things I think about just now. Maybe I add more if something pops to my mind. But, as I said, nothing of this is *exactly* a single proof that the name would be impossible, but nonetheless things to be taken into consideration, I think. Anyway, for the time being, I'm still convinced it would be a wrong choice. And, once such choice would've been made, it would take an out of proportion big effort to ease down the negative effects of that choice.
- --Francis Schonken 10:29, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Added TMTP to content page.
[[:en:Francis fandrina ]]
I believe that "Principal" fits very well. (en:Principal) I also like Jimbo's idea to add "constitutional" in front of "monarch." There is a history of monarchy that is not widely acceptable. A monarchy is a simple power structure, which is also simply be breached. The "constitutional" bit adds more complexity that makes it not so simple. There are debates on wikien-l that have shown arguments against an institutionalized power structure or groups within wikipedia. Principal sounds instutionalized, but what about "Constitutional Principal?" This is just an idea. If there is further discussion about it, maybe it is something more. Dzonatas 15:19, 2 March 2006 (UTC)