Conflict-driven view of wiki
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Many people have a conflict-driven view of wiki expressed under various other names:
- battlefield of ideas
- multiple point of view (and its extreme expression as factionalism)
- sympathetic point of view (which implies critical point of view)
Others have expressed some bitterly stated concerns about the degree of conflict and the possibility of achieving a fair treatment within that view. A substantial minority of project participants, notably those committed to antifactionalism (some would say suppressionism), oppose any voice for so-called "trolls" who contest the fairness and transparency of the process that currently exists, or (most extremely) the smug pro-trolling troll who asserts a right to "fight back".
Issue: how far to accomodate conflict-driven assumptions or terms?
The numerous attempts by antifactionalism advocates to suppress the conflict view have failed, but they often succeed at hiding particular bits of evidence and testimony, or using bad page names or other excuses to delete such material from most other users' sight. Some rules seem required to ensure that the debate continues on even ground, and to prevent trolls from taking direct action to (subtly or not) subvert the editorial processes they claim are biased. These rules would go a long way to civilize advocacy of particular views. However, such rules are always evolving anyway, and the more urgent issue is how to deal with the debate on conflict-driven terms, which, by definition, will itself be more of a conflict than a cooperation. Hopefully this is the first debate that can be 'civilized'.
Position: The conflict-driven view is inaccurate and illegitimate
Every issue is ultimately and only a "Community" issue. There's no need for any instructions or accomodation for those who don't consider themselves part of our community, that being, "we, the Wikipedians".
- Argument for: We are all one community here. There is no problem.
- Argument against: There are many people who keep raising this view, including Jimmy Wales, and citing the ability to contest and dispute things as the project's main strength
- Argument against: Many people contribute excellent content that stands the test of time at least in part, but consistently refuse to participate in the project's internal politics or power structure. Some even refuse to log in. We accomodate them on all pages and accept their contributions on other matters, but on governance, suddenly, we want them to go away.
Position: The so-called "trolls" have been right from the beginning
Systemic biases and other related problems such as translation arose from failure to acknowledge that technical skills or larger vocabularies could be used as weapons by one faction against another in a political battle. Over the five years or so since they were originally stated, these views have been generally proven true, and the project has eventually had to change in the ways the "trolls" suggested.
- Argument for: There's a large body of material from early 2002 and some more through 2003 that address these issues; Though they aren't often cited now, they were very influential.
- Argument for: Even Larry Sanger and Jim Wales engaged in a quite trollish dispute on kuro5hin about the basic principles of the project; In doing so, they too became trolls.
- Argument against: Trolls are trolls. Just ignore them.
Position: The words "troll" and "community" ought to both be banned
Neutral names without the community metaphor, like "debate topics", are now being adopted to replace names like community portal which assumed too much about users. This is a good trend and should continue. Unlike some software, mediawiki has never used the term "troll" on its command interface, and never should, as it's a social categorization.
- Argument for: As an open letter to Jim Wales correctly stated, there's no objectivity to either term, except for some thugs to self-authorize themselves to "protect the community" by attacking the so-called "trolls" that they themselves get to define. This makes the project look ridiculous and stupid, and encourages similar stupidity elsewhere.