Wikipedia Governance (2002 essay)

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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.

(This is an essay written in 2002 by the co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales)

This is not a topic I would have chosen to write about again, as I think that the information here is adequately explained elsewhere. But since 24 keeps insisting that this needs to be done, then I will do it.

1. "On March 1, 2002, the wikipedia lost its chief editor, Larry Sanger, and has no clear or obvious way to make certain policy decisions critical to its future." Larry Sanger was my employee, and we made policy decisions together based on our shared vision for the future of Wikipedia, with due consideration given to the desires and needs of the regular contributors. Then, as now, the ultimate responsibility for decisions made rested with me. Nothing has changed.

2. Vocabulary -- The language level of Wikipedia is or ought to be aimed at the level that a college student can understand. http://simple.wikipedia.com is a worthy effort, not very active yet, at making articles available in simplified English. The international wikis should similarly be aimed at the level that a college student who speaks that language natively can understand, and I would support the notion of creating simplified versions of each of those.

Additionally, it should be said that the international wikis are not mere translations, but independent projects. This is in the nature of wiki. It is great if people translate articles, or anyhow if people find articles written in different languages useful in working on articles in other languages. But it is entirely possible that two articles from two different languages will not resemble each other very much.

3. Our NPOV policy is the "glue" that binds us together. My original statement of w:Neutral point of view was brilliant and perfect in every respect.  :-) Larry's detailed exposition only drives home the main points. But the NPOV is not the sole principle which guides the community -- it is our means to our shared end.

To my knowledge, there have been no serious objections to the NPOV. Those who think otherwise should EMAIL me, at jwales@wikia-inc.com, and discuss it privately before I'm willing to waste other people's time (who have seen it all before) with a big public debate.

4. Final policy decisions are up to me, as always. But the license provides a strong counter-balance to my power. If I attempted to deviate from the NPOV policy, to push my own political agenda for example, then the contributors can and should take the database and the software and set up a competing project. In order to hold the project together, and in order to keep the largest possible group of people working together on the central project, I must listen carefully to all elements of the community, and make decisions that are satisfactory to the best interests of the encyclopedia as a whole.

5. Wikipedia is not to be viewed as an adversarial endeavor, nor as a marketplace, but as a co-operative endeavor. Edit wars are to be avoided in favor of efforts to create mutually acceptable articles -- this is where the guidance of the NPOV is most important. The Wikipedia culture is strongly opposed to Usenet-style flame wars. We try hard not to argue, but to find mutually satisfactory solutions.

6. Anyone who disagrees with these governance policies has very little reason to complain. If you want to set up a wikipedia that is an experiment in anarchy, or an encyclopedia for the purpose of pushing your own political vision without the need for NPOV compromises, then you may do so, and I will help you if I can. But ultimately, wikipedia IS wikipedia, and not anything else. If you view the NPOV as hopelessly human-centric or not sufficient to overcome implicit biases, there's no need to argue with me about it -- you should consider me totally bullheaded and beyond the possibility of change on this point. But take comfort in the knowledge that you can set up your own project and do things your own way.