More Heat than Light written by en:User:Kat on the Wikipedia power structure -- copied here for easy reference
The chain of events on a number of disputes has led me to question the present Wikipedia power structure.
Reality of the Present Structure
Final decisions on policy, and on the acceptability of behavior of users, are made by Jimbo Wales. In practice, however, Wales rarely changes the status quo on policy matters, and takes action against users only when they make a breach of civility.
Decisions on software implementation are made by a group of volunteer developers.
Editorial decisions are made using two systems:
- The consensus editing model of the Wiki
- A dispute resolution model, used as a backup when consensus cannot be reached
The editorial dispute resolution model uses a four-step escalation process.
- Scope of conflict
- The sucker punch.
- Status quo
Most editorial disputes are resolved based on tenacity. That is, the dispute is resolved in favor of the user that is most motivated, and most willing to carry the discussion forward after others have lost interest. This can be positive, and to a degree is part of the Wiki consensus editing model.
Scope of Conflict
Where two users are equally tenacious, the dispute becomes more a matter of scope of conflict. In many disputes it is clear to both parties which side of the dispute will be taken by most Wikipedians. Possessing this knowledge, the parties to the dispute try to minimize or maximize the level of community involvement, as benefits their case. At this juncture, an edit war is under way, and the Wiki consensus editing model is no longer functional.
For those issues that are not resolved at the Scope of Conflict level, discussion continues with attempts to perform a Sucker Punch. Once the dispute reaches this point, consensus is unlikely to be achieved and all parties involved find the discussion aggravating.
The sucker punch itself is an attempt to incite the opposing party to lose their cool and commit a breach of civility.
The breach of civility is likely to result in censure by Jimbo Wales, settling the editorial dispute by default. Since one or both parties are frustrated by the process at this point, and may even be contemplating departure from Wikipedia, it is likely that a breach of civility will eventually occur.
If the dispute continues for some time without a breach of civility, the status quo will ultimately prevail. For articles that predate the dispute, this means that the article will be more or less restored to its appearance prior to the dispute, with only those changes on which there is a consensus. For disputes over the validity of newly created articles, this means that the article will be permitted to remain.
Outcomes of the Present Structure
- Once an edit war starts, the outcome of the dispute is wholly unrelated to the merits of the alternative texts.
- One or both participants in the dispute will find the process frustrating and opaque.
- Disputes have caused some of Wikipedia's best contributors to leave.
- Disputes are a drain on community resources.
- Disputes produce more heat than light.
Existing Methods without Teeth
Votes are not used for dispute resolution. While occasionally taken, the results are ignored except in cases where the results are unanimous or nearly so.
Administrators do not play a role in dispute resolution, or at least, not one that is different from other users. Administrators may advocate and enforce cooling-off periods in an effort to prevent the dispute from escalating.
- An editorial review board of five individuals who agree to hear disputes on articles.
- Members, and alternates, are Wikipedians, and are elected by a vote of participants in the project, and serve a limited term.
- A formal review of a dispute may be requested by any major participant in a dispute. Reviews are conducted on the Wiki or via e-mail.
- The board may refuse to hear a dispute if it believes that insightful discussion is still taking place.
- Decisions of the board are by majority vote, and are binding; further edits to the page in question are expected to be consistent with such decisions.
- The editorial review board serves no other function; matters such as software, financial matters, or banning of users are outside its purview.
Benefits of the Alternative
- Lower overall level of conflict.
- Quality of articles on contentious subjects improves.
- Greater consistency of editorial policy.
- Talented, knowledgeable contributors more likely to stay with the project.
A Day in the Life of a Canadian:
John Canuck is a proud Canadian, born and raised in a democratic and wealthy country. He works hard at his job at Esso where he is allowed to dress casually. He and his Canadian wife, with her income as an editor at HarperCollins Books, live well and do their best to take good care of their family. Although not politically active, John Canuck tries to vote in every election but usually his schedule is so full that getting to the poll on election day is not easy. However, he loves his country and is grateful for all things Canadian. John Canuck's typical business day goes something like this.
He wakes up at 6:00 AM sharp, hits the button on the GE clock radio and slips out of the comfortable en:Wamsutta sheets on his en:Simmons Beautyrest mattress and heads for the bathroom. After, flushing the en:American Standard toilet, he jumps into the en:Kohler shower, quickly rubbing in the en:Head and Shoulders shampoo and lathers his body with the bar of en:Colgate. Finished, he dries himself on the soft en:Cannon bath towel then tosses it into the en:Rubber-Maid laundry hamper. While using his en:Gillette razor, in the mirror he notices the gray at the edge of his temples needs another dose of medium-brown en:Just For Men. Finally, he slips on his en:Fruit of the Loom briefs, the en:Polo shirt, his en:Levi's jeans, and then his Nike's.
Downstairs, he checks the en:Honeywell thermostat, measures the en:Folgers coffee, flips the switch on the en:Procter-Silex coffee maker, drops the en:Kelloggs Pop Tarts into the en:Sunbeam toaster, fills a bowl with Cap'n Crunch, and makes fresh juice from the en:Sun-Kist Oranges in the Westinghouse blender.
After rushing to fill the dog's dish with en:Iams dogfood he sprinkles the en:Hartz birdseed in the budgie's cage, sets the en:ADT alarm system, and, picking up his en:Samsonite briefcase, he rushes out the door to his new Chevy SUV. Glancing at his wife's Mercury Sable wagon, he makes a mental note to remind her to renew the en:Allstate insurance policy. On the way to work the local radio station on the car radio blares the latest hit from Britney Spears just as he stops to fill up at the en:Sunoco Station and to check the air pressure in the en:Good Year tires. Making another quick stop at Tim Horton's for a box of donuts for the office, he then races on to en:Starbucks for coffee.
Slipping a stick of en:Dentyne into his mouth, he finally turns into the mall parking lot where he parks near the en:Sears store near next to the en:Century 21 Real Estate office, across from en:Home Depot where after work he has to pick up some en:Energizer batteries and the new en:Stanley hammer he needs. While there, he plans to take a look at the latest en:Black & Decker power saws and the new en:Toro lawnmowers.
At the office, he spends a busy morning on his Motorola phone using the en:Sprint connection., while clicking away on the Compaq computer and printing reports on the Hewlett-Packard printer. After making several Xerox copies for his boss, he uses AOL and the Netscape Navigator to find the website to download the latest version of Encarta, storing it in the Windows folder with the Intuit accounting program. For lunch, he and a few co-workers usually have something at McDonald's on Monday, KFC on Tuesday, en:Burger King on Wednesday, then on Thursday they cut back on the fat and have only a salad at Wendy's. Fridays are always hectic, so lunch is limited to a Pepsi and a Pizza Hut pizza delivered to his desk.
The busy day for John Canuck does not end at the office. On the way home he has more stops to make. First he runs in to the en:Rexall drug store to pick up en:Tylenol, en:Johnson & Johnson Band-Aids, a roll of Kodak film, and a box of en:Tampax for his wife. At the checkout counter he purchases a copy of Time Magazine, en:Sports Illustrated and en:TV Guide, then grabs the latest John Grisham bestseller for himself and a Danielle Steel paperback for his wife.
Next stop is Wal-Mart where, using his wife's neatly typed list, he fills a cart with the en:Remington hair dryer, a new en:Corning Ware casserole, a en:Hamilton Beech coffee grinder, and a en:George Foreman grill. After paying with his en:Visa card, he drives to the en:IGA where he runs around tossing things into the shopping cart. en:Pillsbury rolls, en:Campbell's soup, en:Reynolds wrap, fresh California lettuce, Kraft cheese slices, a few en:Swanson dinners, en:Green Giant mixed vegetables, Heinz ketchup, en:Haagen-Dazs ice cream, plus en:Oreo's and a few Hershey bars for the kids. With friends coming over on the weekend, he had plenty of en:Bud Light but added to his shopping cart, a case of Coke, en:Planter's Peanuts, and en:Orville Redenbacher popcorn.
Loaded with his purchases, he made one final stop to pick up the latest Julia Roberts video at en:Blockbuster. Wishing he still had his en:Columbia House video club membership, he purchased the Disney movie for the kids to play on their new RCA VCR.
Exhausted, at home he started up the GE dishwasher then flopped into the comfortable en:La-Z-Boy with en:Culp's soft Du Pont nylon fabric. Too tired to call and check on the Delta Airline flights to visit his retired parents in Tampa, he turned on the en:Zenith TV for the CBS news, then clicked on CNN for the closing figures on the Dow and the NASDAQ.
Not much of a TV watcher, there were however certain programs he refuses to miss. The Kentucky Derby, Monday Night NFL football, and Survivor are absolute musts. His wife never misses Oprah or Friends but together they always watch the Academy Awards and the Grammy's. He is thinking of buying the en:Nico-Derm patch to help quit smoking. Too many years of Export "A" cigarettes will kill him one day.
When his wife arrives home, she joins him for a few relaxing moments to watch the local news. A reporter says that one of the politicians in Ottawa is complaining about Canada being swallowed up by corporate America.
John Canuck shakes his head in amazement at the stupidity of some of the socialist protectionists who believe such a thing could ever happen.