Order versus Chaos

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Noto Emoji Pie 1f4c4.svg (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.

Order versus Chaos: The two methodologies.


  • The methodology utilised by Wikipedia and GNU/Linux.
  • The "hacker's way".
  • Analogy with Computing: Programming, Extreme Programming.
  • "I can edit this page now!".
  • Dangers: Chaos; disorganisation; the creation of a mess; anarchy. Tends to create entropy.
  • Ambitions: FAST in incorporating changes; dynamic; quick adaption; freedom.
  • Works well only when the participants are of high-quality, intelligent, adult, knowledgable, and have self-control.
  • When the participants are of low-quality, the project will be in danger. Example: the participant is more interested in advertising than creating an encyclopaedia, so the project becomes a collection of advertisements.


  • The methodology utilised by BSD and classic encyclopaedias.
  • More well-suited for academic projects.
  • The "engineer's way".
  • Analogy with Computing: Software Engineering, Waterfall Model.
  • "I can edit this page, after design, discussion, engineering and careful planning".
  • Dangers: Everyone will stop editing, waiting for the solution from the leadership. Immobility and stillness. Loss of NPOVness (leadership will pass its own POV) and loss of Freedom. Slowness (slow to incorporate changes and new ideas). Bureaucracy.
  • Ambitions: To avoid bugs, ensure the creation of a well-designed base and avoid anarchy.
  • Some form of decision making is needed.
  • Allows us to keep the project on its feet even when the participants are of low quality and have no interest to create an encyclopaedia (for example, with the Order Methodology, the advertisers and the crackheads can easily be avoided).


  • The best solution: SYNTHESIS. A synthesis of Chaos and Order.
  • How?
  • How much order? How much chaos?
  • Who will take the decisions?


  • Which methodology is better for the creation of an encyclopaedia? Optim 04:33, 23 Jan 2004 (UTC)

You pose a question in the meta wiki re whether order or chaos will reign, and there was some stuff there about a dialectical synthesis of the two. My observation is that there is only order, and no tendency toward entropy. My evidence for this is that:

  • I can attempt to look something up in the wikipedia and it either comes back directly (or via the search engine), or it doesn't - implying that the article/subject-matter is not there.

that is a very ordered scheme, and it doesn't matter how people go about growing and trimming the database. The order is enforced by the software system itself. I am intrigued by the objection to wikis that they will have a tendency toward chaos.

An analogy is the ant-hill. nobody, it seems, quite knows what motivates ants, but I suggest they have a pattern, a program if you like, pre-determined by their genetics. An ant can only do certain things. A wikipedian can only do certain things as constrained by the wiki software. If an ant is dysfunctional, such as an ant from a different nest, then soldier ants can dispose of it. the wiki has self-appointed gaurdians - and I gather you are one - so the model is complete. A termendous power in overcoming incipient chaos is the complete log that the wiki provides of all changes - thereby ensuring that repair can be total in the event of any damage.

A wiki seems to me to be a self-healing system. Therefore the arguments about order vs chaos are somewhat misplaced, I suggest. Stan 16:35, 7 Feb 2004 (UTC)

I agree with Stan as to the fact that wikis are pretty orderly. True, everybody can edit any article, but there can only be one article bearing the same title. This does not really account for diverse point of view, possibly mentioning them but much preferring an "absolute" truth (en:Earth does not really heed claims made by the en:Flat Earth Society). Claiming that Wikipedia is chaotic is like claiming that Democracy is chaotic.

(GNU is somewhat different. While all may contribute by modifying existing projects or creating projects of their own, this does nothing to overcome the inherent human tendency towards centralization, aided by the fact that such mass collaborations are often better - I for one run Apache on my laptop without having even considered another server.)

A way to establish a truly chaotic encyclopedia (I realize I am drifting away from your question) is by abolishing software altogether. I have recently suggested providing P2P access to Wikipedia. Theoretically (for such a thing could never be practical) (I think), this could be a part of a greater scheme for a truly chaotic, multiple-truths P2P encyclopedia. Rather than have edit wars, arguing in favor of a single truth, one would be able to edit an article, hosted on one's computer, to suit his whims, and distribute it via P2P (mentioning whose version this is if he feels like it). When one desires to research something, one could search for articles dealing with it and be exposed to various point of views, some of which deny the existence of the South Pole. One could also merge articles and redistribute them, and even, assuming some information has a accrued in the P2P articles, merge it into the canonical Wikipedia.

All hail Discordia. -- Itai 09:55, 10 Mar 2004 (UTC)