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Knights and good boys

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(English) 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.

A research on the structure of a Wiki democracy, based on Incnis Mrsi’s experience in ru.wiki. Additions and corrections with a wider scope are welcome.


The main conjecture is the existence of two phenomena: wiki-knights and wiki-good boys, where the former’s activity leads to social advantages of the latter and, hence, to discrimination against all non-good boys. In contrast to the famous „predator–prey“ model, this one provides a positive feedback. These two classes are virtually not sets, but rôles of users, some patterns of behavior. The user may be both a knight and a good boy, or not to be neither. It is not uncommon for an old good boy to became a knight. We also don’t claim any correlation (positive or negative) between them. But there are less good boys than knights.


We define a knight as one who knows how he should behave and does not think on it, even if the situation (such as a content dispute or RfA) assumes thinking. Possibly, he just isn’t able to think or have not such attitude in general, but also a knight may abstain from thinking because (in some class of situations) he „already knows what to do“. To my (Incnis Mrsi) observations, about 25% of that ru.wiki populace which take part in elections and polls, behave knight-like.

There is two subtypes of knights, different in appearance.

Knights of a cause[edit]

A knight of a cause is an user devoting his activity in Wikipedia to some cause (agenda): nationalistic, religious, political, sexual etc., and such cause is supposed to be conscious. For us it’s not important, to which namely cause, because impacts differ slightly. This types of knight usually engaged in flamewars and even edit wars in a narrow domain. It’s unlikely (but not impossible, though) for such knight to be also a good boy. But, despite the prejudice against them in ru.wiki’s public opinion, they have in fact a considerable total influence.

Here also included a great part (but not all) of „metapedian knights“ with their causes inside Wikipedia: deletionism, inclusionism, some ideas concerning an etiquette, sometimes even the justice and so on. Such causes are often combined by an user with some external one (see the top of the section).

Bêtise knights[edit]

A less numerous type of knights, but they vastly outnumber knights of each distinct cause. In their behavior prevail unconscious, biological (ethological) patterns, such as imitation, supremacy, imprinting, xenophobia. We denote them with French word bêtise, which literally means „silliness“, but derived from bête = beast.

A bêtise knight is often perceived as a metapedically active user, especially in the humanitarian domain. Any useful (or „true“) metapedian, though, has on his advanced stages a considerable contributions to essays, texts of rules, manuals, software utilities etc., which are empty in the typical case of a bêtise knight. But, in contrast to the former knight type, a bêtise knight could likely (but not necessary) be simultaneously a good boy.

Good boys[edit]

There are ideal, relative and majority-perceived good boys. The (ideal) Good Boy is a personage from the collective subconscious fictional universe. As „relatively-good boys“ (with, of course, also such variants as „good girls“, „good daddies“ and „good mommies“, between which we do not discreet) we denote users, whose reactions match some „standard user“ model in the mind of another user. Each user has his own „standard user“ model, based on the „standard man“ model, which, in turn, is based on himself (probably with some evident flaws removed) and his parents, friends etc., with, of course, some biological component, particularly for bêtise knights (see above).

A „majority-good boy“ is a boy, who is good relatively to a vast majority of users. Because of averaging of standard user models, a majority-good boy (from here and forth simply a good boy) more resemble the ideal Good Boy than a relatively-good boy. This is a crucial difference between a good boy and an usual human: a good boy has an ability to make his mistake in such way that he rarely receives punishment or even a broad conviction for it.

There is also an eligibility margin for a good boy in ru.wiki: an admitted good boy must have a long term and regular contribution with a good faith. But a kind and a quality of the contribution means absolutely nothing. An author of a dozen of good articles have no advantage over an user who only adds categories. An user who carefully responds to all queries have no advantage over an user who discards all critical notes in his personal talk page (but obeying a bit of etiquette). An user with 15 hours online have no advantage over an user who looks to the wiki once a week. An user with twenty thousands vocabulary have no advantage over an user who binds three words with considerable difficulties. Perception of a good boy is irrational, but there exist in ru.wiki some terms to define it. These are „balanced“ (rus: взвешенный) and „judicious wise“ (rus: рассудительный). With these two terms also a „conflict avoiding“ (rus: неконфликтный) is often used.

If an user doesn’t break rules, then he likely will be perceived as a good boy, in the case if he avoided participation in acute discussions. But an admitted good boy may break rules frequently in various ways, and, even being stopped once, he will ever be excused, rehabilitated and restored in all his positions while he continues to be a good boy; an explanation will be made below. It is crucially important for a good boy/girl to retain his/her rôle, though, at least from points of view of a vast majority of users. A loss of his/her good boy/girl image for at least one third of populace would have dramatical (and even tragic) consequences. The most notable example is Lvova, a good girl and a martyr for a big group of supporters, but she became a very bad girl for some other users.

Why knights support good boys[edit]

In this section we will discuss mainly a support on RfA, ArbCom elections etc.

It’s evident, why knights generally do not support knights – because their causes are often opposing or conflicting. Their causes usually (except nationalisms and racisms) intended on the whole humanity, though. Whom the progressive, good humanity consists of? First of all, of his reference group, and, next, of another good boys. A bêtise knight is not an exception. He also has his cause, usually a „normal“ human society (depends on the personal background: like his family, his collective or something worse). Along with a support for good boys, they tends to support each other, but not other knights and, in any case, a support to somebody but a good boy is unreliable.

Consider the electoral behavior of a knight of a cause. If a candidate is not a good boy and is not devoted to the cause (of course, only a small part of users are devoted), then a knight oppose him. So, a non-good boy candidate faces an opposition from almost all knights. But if a candidate was a good boy, then a knight would, in the worse case, abstain. Probably, some errors in his work would be found, but he never will oppose the cause. Because he is good, and we fight, of course, for the goodness of good boys. And a benefit of the cause is the highest value.

How good boys support knights[edit]

There is no systematic support of knights at RfA etc. in ru.wiki. The main form of supporting knights is a passive support. For example, helping a knight to avoid the punishment for disruption of a wiki community. Drbug is the brightest example (in ru.wiki) of a (former) good boy, who supports systematically some of most odious knights, but such boys are rare. Good boys, generally, do not announce broadly their support to knights, but such support occurs quite often and have the same goal.

Non-knights rarely resolve their conflicts with a mediation. Though, good boys often mediate numerous conflicts with knights’ participation. Of course, a good boy feel himself highly sought because of it, particularly if a boy is not able to any other work. Moreover, because a good boy (who are used in conflicts resolving) communicates mainly with knights and other good boys, he starts to think that it’s knights and good boys who are the community. That’s why he often defend a knight, even if a knight makes a harm to the project’s goal.

You can say that there is not support but a connivance, an (excessively) soft enforcement of the rules. Is it a support or not, but it encourage new knights of a cause to join the project. Those users who are not knights nor good boys, contrary, tends to abandon the project.

Does the administration consist of good boys only?[edit]

Of course, no, even in ru.wiki. In the past, many ru.wiki sysop candidates received a support from one party of knights to obtain some protection against opposing knights. In modern ru.wiki, a „non-good boy“ is eligible for sysop if he fits some niche. In such case he obtain a consolidated support from almost all non-knights (as non-knight good boys, as those who are not knights nor good boys), and also a support from some knights of a cause. Bêtise knights always vote against a non-good boy, but in the case of a niche candidate their resistance may be broadly overran.

Indeed, are good boys bad?[edit]

Of course, they are not bad itself. It’s discrimination in favor of them what is bad, like any kind of a discrimination. If less people have, for example, a sysop flag, then an average sysop should increase the number of performed actions and, hence, its quality is decreasing. A wiki community should judge not is an user good or bad himself, but which work is he able to perform good or bad.

Possible remedies[edit]

The most evident way to counter this feedback loop is to deter knights from influence on the granting of privileges, but this would be just another form of discrimination. Another possibility (in case of one wiki-project, particularly flooded with good boys) is to establish some external ruling/controlling/supervising body, that might throw all rule breakers away of the administration, regardless to are they good or bad.

Also, a segmentation would lead to some competition between different segments of the elite and eventually to decreasing demands in good boys, but this way may lead to clashes of cliques of knights, which would be not good for Wikipedia.