Why a cabal is perceived

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Crystal wordprocessing.png This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some wikimedians or Meta-Wiki users, but may not have wide support. This is not policy on the Meta-Wiki, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.
Pasdecabale.jpg

Wikipedia has publicly decreed that there is no cabal. Nevertheless, its perceived existence still remains strong across the wikimunity. Why?

Let's see.....the "Cabal" perception is the closest thing to a conspiracy theory on Wikipedia, when it isn't being used as a joke. A conspiracy is often suspected in a situation when the skeptic feels that they are not being told essential information in order to better their own situation.

Editors encounter situations on Wikipedia where they feel that they are missing something everyone else understands....that a discussion took place somewhere else, or that the admins hate them for some esoteric reason. Often, it is simply because of a lack of communication, or because of a lack of policy understanding. It may boil down to a difference of opinions in what Wikipedia's raison d'être, which I will discuss below.

Why do Exopedians perceive a cabal?[edit]

Exopedians are Wikipedians who spend the majority of their time editing articles themselves, and usually spend little time communicating with other users about policy and process.

At least, the quintessential Exopedian does.

In theory, they are the backbone of article content, and Exopedianism is Wikipedianism in its purest form.

But when the work of an Exopedian is challenged, they often end up on the lower hand. If they are in a conflict, they will often neglect to file 3RRs and garner defense based on history and reasoning at ArbCom or the admin noticeboard.

If the other side knows how to use the Wikipedia namespace, or communicate more effectively, their opinion will come out in "victory." There may not be a cabal, but there is a general attitude, or zeitgeist, which moves the way judgments and actions are made.

Since Exopedians don't communicate very much in the Wikipedia namespace, they don't pick up on these emotional undertones of the Wikimunity. These attitudes can change the decision in an RfA, AfD, or ArbCom. It is an uphill battle for Exopedians here, because they are unaware of what is being favored at the moment. So, Exopedians have left Wikipedia because they feel they were cheated out of a fair process before they even notice, or because they were swept away by an indescribable popular attitude.

Why do Metapedians perceive a cabal?[edit]

Metapedians spend much of their time keeping the community together: they make sure other editors are happy with the environment, they make sure policies and processes are upheld. Metapedians may make most of their edits by reverting vandalism, spellchecking, and doing other small tasks. Usually, user talk pages are where most of their edits are made.

Metapedians have problems that seem to be the complete opposite of exopedians. They can't understand why someone (such as an admin or arbcom) would break process and ignore all rules in order to solve a dispute. They forget that the encyclopedia and its content comes before the community and its processes and policies.

Why are processes and rules so often thrown out with the bath water? If any of the inner workings of Wikipedia, including Wikipedians themselves, get in the way of the encyclopedia's function and quality, the WP:IAR corollary is used as an emergency shutoff button. The community behind Wikipedia may become corrupt, die, or something equally horrible, but as long as the articles retain their quality few outside of Wikipedia will notice. Of course, such an event would eventually destroy the encyclopedia, but slowly, from the inside out, like Nupedia.

But why?[edit]

Perhaps this is because of the nature of conflicts on Wikipedia. There is no shouting, no twisted, emotionally charged expressions on people's faces, mostly because communication on Wikipedia is done through the written word, which can't convey emotions very well.

A user in a dispute is not aware of the escalating situation, hence, they do not prepare by reading policies. It may be due to the fact that editors never accept the fact that there is a conflict, even when it has reached its highest point. They end up surprised at the severe sanctions made in the outcome of the conflict, because the severity of the situation was not realized until the end.

The perception of whether or not the conflict exists, or to what severity, is different from person to person, and much of the time the difference is not acknowledged.

However, this can be an advantage. It is much easier to stay cool and neutral while typing text, whereas physical confrontations, etc. easily give away uneasiness and true emotion. If Wikipedia had to be written in a huge room with everyone talking face-to-face, the NPOV policy would probably disintegrate in 4.6 seconds.

What do you think?[edit]

I'd be interested to hear some other ideas in the section below about this issue.

Wikipedia might alter the balance that exists outside Wikipedia[edit]

Divergence of view points on a given subject is common outside Wikipedia. For some subjects, this divergence is more important. Moreover, there are recognised religious, political or business oriented groups that normally advocate different point of views. So, there is a dynamic outside Wikipedia and we expect that this dynamic will influence Wikipedia. I believe this mostly happen naturally without any hidden collusion within Wikipedia from these groups. Most groups will not feel the need for that. Editors within a given group does not need to know their real life identities. They still have the common thinking of the group. However, this is not the end of the story. It is still possible that Wikipedia alters the balance that exists between the different views outside Wikipedia. I believe that it does. The key explanation is that the Wikipedia editors are not at all in the same category as the editors outside Wikipedia. The fact that contributions can be anonymous is an important element that can explain this difference. The resulting bias can easily create the impression that there is some hidden collusion, but I don't think there is. A collusion is not needed to explain any bias or apparent collusion within Wikipedia. Edith Sirius Lee 21:43, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

I was once involved in a minor edit war on The unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages (UESP). I spent hours overhauling a page (must-have mods), cutting it down to size, tailoring the summaries, adding new information and version info etcetera etcetera. Then, out of the blue, an administrator decided to remove one of the mods I added to the list. I had documented my entire overhaul on the talk page, giving detailed reasons for my edits. The administrator didn't bother starting a discussion there, he just removed it. I reverted him, telling him to start a discussion, but he removed it again. It continued until another administrator removed it; he then accused me of edit-warring. I reverted that as well, telling him to discuss it on the talk-page, but they threatened to block me from the wiki. When I said that I would not bow to their terrorism, they accused me of making threats. I pointed that irony out, but they accused me of violating consensus. Remember that I was the one who started the discussion. There was no consensus on the talk-page, no input from them at all. Eventually I gave up and shortly thereafter my entire overhaul was undone. From that point on, my every edit was reverted by the first administrator. In one instance, I resized an image which had stood for months; an hour later, the administrator removed it citing "possible copyright violation". The image was created by the user who uploaded it, and he gave the wiki full rights for its use. The administrator even reverted my additions to talk pages. I, Englishman 01:35, 26 August 2010 (UTC)