Consensus and Wikipedia
|This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, 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.|
Work in progress
I'm a fan of the Wikipedia because it's a consensus effort. This happens to fit in neatly with some of my ideas about the most productive forms of social interaction. Someday, I'd like to see a similar setup for a discussion of human rights, the better to work toward an international consensus on the fundamental rights that should be granted to every human being. Hey, everybody's got to have a dream...
What is Consensus?
A consensus is a general agreement among the members of a given community. Such agreement need not be unanimous*, but the word implies more than a simple majority. The closest equivalent phrase might be the "collective opinion" of a group, keeping in mind that some degree of variation is still possible among individuals in that group on the topic.
The word also holds implications of compromise. Rather than one opinion being adopted by a plurality, consensus suggests that various different opinions are brought together and adapted until a single "average" statement is reasonably representative of the whole. The articles of Wikipedia are intended to follow this kind of approach.
The concept of consensus is an important one in the context of society and government, and forms a cornerstone of the concept of democracy. Democracy, in its raw form, has sometimes been referred to as the "tyranny of the majority", with the implication that one faction of the society is dominating other factions, possibly repressively. Others, however, argue that if the democracy adheres to the principles of consensus, factional dominance can be minimized and decisions will be most representative of the entire society.
Consensus and Wikipedia
- The fact that one individual can remove any given edit makes Wikipedia based on unanimity not consensus. The two models of editing are quite incompatible.
If any two individuals had to agree to authorize the visibility of a given edit or to undo it, they could over-ride the authority of the single author. Thus the encyclopedia would not rely on unanimous consent but on 'unanimity minus one'. It is quite possible to base the encyclopedia on any algorithm of measuring consent, but 'unanimity minus one' has significant advantages.