How to build Wikipedia

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Be in Charge and Be Humble[edit]

To lead an anarchistic project is a paradox--the only way to successfully do so is to act with humility, to question your actions more than you question those of others.

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Understand Bias[edit]

The w:NPOV is an ideal, and should be recognized such. True neutrality is impossible to achieve. Thus, we must remember that every contribution to Wikipedia is biased. Rather than giving up and deleting everything, we instead try to contextualize, and distinguish the sources of knowledge: scientific, historical, inspirational, cultural, etc.

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Appreciate Idiosyncracy[edit]

Consensus is critical to Wikipedia, which means both that people should expect to be mercilessly edited, but also that people shouldn't believe that they are the final arbiters of what is the One True Wikipedia.

The "rules" of Wikipedia (e.g. w:Wikipedia is not a dictionary) should not be used as reasons to violently delete other people's work. Rather, if you believe in the rules, you should attempt to convert those people to your view. Use words, not force.

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Totally Redesign the Wikipedia Software, and Implement it as a Community[edit]

Or, Act Like Perl[edit]

Emphasize the connection between code and culture. Celebrate and require documentation and a mission plan.

w:Be bold in updating pages. Propose new ideas for how to use Wikipedia, from w:WikiProject to Project Sourceberg.

For anyone who wonders if this can be done, just think for a second about how Perl has developed and grown, nurtured by w:Larry Wall.

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Make big plans on Wikipedia[edit]

If a mailing list is to be used, it should be better incorporated with the Wikipedia interface. This can be technological or cultural; for example, there could be Wikipedia pages which summarize (for current interest and for posterity) mailing list discussions.

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Avoid Cabals[edit]

Setting up hierarchies is always a temptation, and is why anarchism never works. A cabal, even an ironic, Usenet-style Cabal (w:TINC), leads slowly to what could be called class distinctions, unless explicit safeguards in the vein of the Bill of Rights are put into place.

Wikipedia is a noble attempt at a limited anarchistic society, and we must remain vigilant.

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Follow the Spirit and Letter of the GFDL[edit]

The w:GNU Free Documentation License is intended for those who want to build a Jeffersonian intellectual commons. It is not intended for those who want to maintain control over the content through any means other than being demonstrably the authoritative resource.

This means that to follow the spirit the GFDL means that the content of Wikipedia's pages should be considered a public resource which happened to originate on Wikipedia. Perhaps some of the pages would be best served as being primarily worked on by a completely different project; the GFDL ensures that wherever a new project takes credit for their work, Wikipedia also gets credit. Wikipedia should not try to "brand" their work in the way that, for example, DMoz has, which has a very different kind of license.

This does allow bad, selfish, or inconsiderate people and groups to not give credit where credit is due: note how the w:GNU Project is ignored by w:Linux partisans, even though the "Linux" operating system (Red Hat Linux, Yellow Dog Linux, etc.) is really an instance of the GNU operating system.

But that's the sacrifice all people who decide to cooperate more than steal make. The GPL and the GFDL are great licenses for people who pretty much just want to share, with just enough protection that other people can't take the knowledge and lock it away.

And I think it's a small sacrifice to make since the benefits are so great.

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Be Respectful but Firm[edit]

Some combativeness and dissent helps societies thrive. Many have believed that the preservation of the right to dissent with utter vehemence, even violence, is critical to the legitimacy and health of the state. Whatever the case, dissent should be officially encouraged, even celebrated, by the powers that be.

Politeness too is a worthy goal. But if calls for politeness come from an all-powerful cabal, which can kick you out, delete your work, etc., well, you can determine what to call that. Fortunately, that cabal doesn't exist on Wikipedia.

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Is There Reason to Worry?[edit]

See How to Destroy Wikipedia.


Responses to How to Build Wikipedia
Jimbo Wales' Statement of principles