RuWiki History (Doronina and Pinchuk)/English/Interview with Alexander Sigachov
1. Your handle on Wikipedia?
2. What is your educational background and where do you work?
I'm an engineer, a manager of projects in the field of developing software protection, and I also teach at a high school
3. Where do you live (Moscow, St. Petersburg, a city with a million inhabitants, a small town, etc)?
4. How old are you?
5. When and how did you first hear about the Russian Wikipedia, and why did you start editing?
I heard about it in August 2004 from an Esperantoist friend of mine and decided to check out the nature of the beast, got sucked in.
6. How many years have you participated? If you ever took an extended wiki-vacation, please provide the reason (i.e., too much work offwiki, unpleasant atmosphere/events in the project itself, or something else).
6 years. I was on wiki-vacation when I went somewhere to travel over the summer, and when I got married :)
7. What do you like most about participating in the project? Why do you think you and other users participate in this work?
I like being a part of a large project that's important for humanity.
8. Which events do you consider to be the most important in the history of ru.wiki?
At some point I created the page Wikipedia:History of the Russian-speaking project and listed what I thought was important, though for the most part these were technical milestones.
If we take the most important:
1. The first articles in the media that brought the first users. 2. The first wiki-meetups, then afterward the wiki-conferences, the face-to-face meeting of people 3. Transition from a system of literally following of the rules (ArbComs 1 and 2, WP:BLOCK), striving to write out everything in the rules down to the most trivial things, to a system of more general rules that formulated principles. 4. The removal of specific articles to other projects (Smartass's articles, the exodus of authors to Lurkmore, the ban on graffiti and on alternative versions of articles from anybody's own point of view) 5. The establishment of intensive ArbCom work (comparable to the intensiveness of the English ArbCom). 6. The creation of sustained enemies of Wikipedia (for example, the ru_wikipedia [LiveJournal community]). I'm not saying that this was a positive moment, but it was an important one. 7. The first conflicts from the real world and the experience of how to deal with them (for example, Armenian-Azerbaijani)
9. Do your professional interests overlap with the areas in which you edit on ru.wiki? If not, how do you decide which articles to edit?
No. Although I do have plans involving articles from my profession, I am putting them into practice very slowly. I usually write articles on random topics, which I learn about from magazines (like "Around the World," "Popular Mechanics.") I find interesting things for myself from the lists in Theme of the Week.
10. Do you participate in "metapedian" work, i.e., patrolling, discussions of nomination for deletion or renaming, templates? Do you follow the discussions that take place on the Forum, discussion pages of the ArbCom, etc.? Why/why not?
Earlier I actively participated in it, but now practically not at all (now I spend my free time with my young child). I try to follow the discussions, especially when I'm preparing the Wikiherald [ru.wiki Signpost]. I want to be up to date on the main news related to Wikipedia. Conflicts interest me less.
11. How do you feel about the administration of ru.wiki? (About the system in general, about certain admins, about the ArbCom?)
I think that the term "administration" is not suitable for Wikipedia. The system of users with official position that has formed seems to me to be entirely good, at the very least for practical goals. The only thing I don't like is a certain level of "fanaticism" on the part of some administrators, but, it looks as if this is an inevitable phenomenon. For instance, some users work so actively on Wikipedia that they easily fall for provocations. They need to be calmer.
12. How do you feel about the rules? Which rule (which "pillar") do you consider to be most important? Do you think that the atmosphere of the project is too strict?
The rules are very confusing. This is one of the central challenges for the project that I see. We need to systematize them.
No, I don't think the atmosphere is too strict, though in some places (in relation to new users), it should be made more lax. I consider the second pillar to be the most important (on neutrality, the need for sources, rules for working on controversial topics), but the main one is the first (Wikipedia is an encyclopedia).
13. Do you communicate with other users outside of Wikipedia? If yes, how: at wiki-meetups, by chat, or through other Internet communities (LiveJournal)?
I try to attend wiki-meetups, but I don't have time to hang out on chats.
14. How has working on Wikipedia helped/hindered you in real life?
- Wikipedia helped me the most when I was offered a job solely based on my wiki reputation (they found me on Wikipedia). I didn't take the job, but when I mentioned that I was considering this offer, I was given a substantial raise at my current job :)
- Wikipedia broadened my worldview
- Wikipedia taught me to see different points of view on one topic and to work with sources.
- Wikipedia broadened my knowledge of people, of how they can be.
- It got in the way of writing my dissertation.
- It hindered my professional development (I could have spent that time reading specialized literature).
15. Has participating in the project affected you personally? How so?
I discovered the rule "assume good faith" -- earlier I hadn't been able verbalize this idea.
16. Do you participate actively in other projects of the Wikimedia Foundation? If so, what are the main differences (positive or negative) from ru.wiki?
Earlier I participated a bit. Now practically not at all.
The English Wikipedia has a better system of rules, but it's utterly impossible to remember the names of active users. There are so many of them, and because of this communication becomes sporadic.
17. What other web projects do you participate in?
Yes, I participate in all the listed examples [LiveJournal, vkontakte.ru, odnoklassniki.ru, habrabr.ru] a bit.
18. What other hobbies do you have?
Esperanto, competing in city navigation, historical dances, oh, and all kinds of computer technology, of course (though with that it's hard to distinguish where hobbies end and my profession begins)
19. You acted as an arbiter in the second, fourth, and seventh ArbComs. Over the course of this time, how has the work of an arbiter changed? Which decisions do you feel were especially important in the history of ru.wiki?
I haven't noticed any principle changes in the work of an arbiter. It very much depends on the concrete people who work as arbiters (more specifically on the most active ones, because usually 1-2 arbiters fall out of the discussions). The first ArbComs adhered more strictly to the letter of the rules and held that if a rule is bad, then it is necessary to clarify the rules, rather than concealing their inadequacies with ArbCom decisions. The first ArbComs did not have experience with serious conflicts or indefinite blocks, and there were no serious groups of offended former users, but on the other hand there were many experimental users attempting projects that were of differing levels of closeness to the creation of an encyclopedia.
I also think some purely technical things are important. In the first ArbComs, discussion was held through emails and not chat, so the exchange of opinions was less lively, but every letter was more informative and well thought-out, and it wasn't necessary to synchronize the arbiters' times. Everyone wrote when it was convenient for them.
It's hard for me to come up with the most important cases and decisions of the ArbCom. I'll note a few of the interesting early ones (before 2008), though it's possible that not all of them can be called "important."
WP:28 - on exhausting the list of reasons for blocking WP:35 - on counting "votes to abstain" as a vote "for" WP:43 - the first removal of the status of "administrator" WP:56, WP:68 - example of the mild approach to Smartass and Serebr, which was found to be inadequate by future ArbComs WP:70 (the first decision and appeal) - Checkusers themselves can determine the necessity of a check, on the basis of the arguments provided WP:142 - the ArbCom will not look into the actions of users outside of Wikipedia WP:180 - the institution of an English [Wikipedia] rule in the war of admins (under the guise of the formulation "disrupting normal functions" from WP:BLOCK) WP:196 - this case was studied for almost 7 months (longer than the term of a single ArbCom), though there was nothing trial-worthy in it. WP:210 - a decision on blocking without much explanation WP:254 - an example of the law-defending activity of Udacha WP:256 - on Tradition, here the interesting thing is the appearance of the phrase "an unmentionable resource," ban on transferring GFDL texts WP:267 - the takeover of LiveJournal, though the important thing is not the ArbCom decision but the event itself
20. A number of users who began editing in 2004 and 2005 left the project after a few years. Why did you remain? If you were now entering the project as a newbie, do you think that you would start actively editing?
My activity in 2010 was about 15 times smaller than in 2006, so in some ways I have also halted my activity.
I like the current project (though I don't take it closely to heart), and I had no reasons to leave it. I became less active for personal reasons. I think that it's not that much harder now for newbies than it was in 2004.
21. Do you think that the community will change significantly in the future? How so? What kinds of changes would you like to see (whether or not they're probable)?
In the distant future the community will become smaller. This will be due to the fact that the quality of the articles will increase, it will be harder and harder to improve them, and fewer and fewer people will be ready to spend their time sorting out the more and more complicated requirements for articles. Users will become more "professionalized," and the threshold for entering will continue to be raised.
In the nearer perspective, it's hard for me to talk about trends, because changes occur that are, to me, largely unexpected.
I'd like to see:
- more active thematic projects (so far this is not very likely)
- a better understanding of the rules and principles of the project (for this we need to reorganize all of our rules) - (need to work on that)
- conflict resolution, rather than singling out and punishing the guilty parties (not very likely)
- the activation of offline resources (museums, legislative initiatives, small grants, external reviews) - (this is possible, and Wikimedia RU will probably do this)