Wikipedia needs editors

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

Wikipedia needs editors[edit]

I have a proposal to make. I think it is time to have editors for articles. I have had enough with NPOV, naming, conventions, facts and other sort of dispute. Maybe because I am ignorant. Maybe because wikipedia does not have professionals who know well. Or maybe because a writer has no sense of writing whatsoever. Whatever the reason is, we have to remember that wikipedia is not a place to debate, prove you are right and your opponents are wrong. The debate by nature is endless. There are many disputes and debates that have not yet been settled in the real world. NPOV disputes often happen simply because people in the world disagree on a number of topics in the first place. The conflicts here are mere reflections. The conflict is a necessary process to reach another step. Innovative ideas are created from disputes, questioning accepted values and theories. But wikipedia is not a place for that. We gather human knowledge to one spot and that is all. If we don't know about something, it is unnecessary to keep debating what is actually true--of course, it should not be discouraged as long as it doesn't curb writing articles. Disputes should be controlled somehow to make articles simply more understandable, relevant and complete--or good quality articles.

Personal attacks happen largely because someone thinks someone else does not deserve to write and edit on certain topics. A handful of people think I don't deserve to edit on certain topics and I have a number of people who should not understand stuff they are contributing, though they think they do understand. I often aggravate some people not because of my personality but because of the way wikipedia works.

What we need is an editor who has authority--someone who can settle the conventions, is sensitive what points to include and exclude and define what wikipedia is to be like.

A group of people may but unlikely have a coherent idea. Today in wikipedia NPOV is done in a very ugly way. People including me are more concerted about if their points are included or not. The use of weasel terms is silly, damaging the quality of wikipedia as the whole. Editors listen to discussion and make a decision--the result should be uniformed discussion in the article. Besides, having editors can make the goal of wikipedia more clear and consistent and keep contributions more in line. Why do we wage an endless debate of deletion in VfD? That is a choice should be made by the editor not by the writer. The scope of coverage in wikipedia is debatable because it is subject to each individual wikipedian. And while it is not bad to discuss the scope of wikipedia as the whole, it is a topic in meta-wikipedia not places where contributions happen. Freedom is important to have but it is also necessary to see its drawbacks. Sometimes I am terrified not by what I have lost, but what I have wikipedia lost by what I have got. The winner of the dispute is not necessary someone who is sensitive, knowledgeable but sometimes may be someone stubborn--in the case of me.

So what do we do then? In a tentative scheme I am thinking now, each article is supervised by an editor. We can put the name of an editor responsible to an article in the bottom of the article. I think an editor for one article must be just one person--not two to avoid any conflict among editors. Editors have an authority to make a final decision about:

  • the title of an article and its scope -- the most important job of an editor
  • responsible of NPOV of the article -- everyone does make an article NPOV but the editors are responsible for NPOVness.
  • protection of an article if necessary

And some criteria I think reasonable include:

  • He must not be a primary author of the article given to him.
  • He preferably has a degree in relevant fields.
  • He is an admit--so that he can protect the article.

I know sometimes admits play a role of editors as I explained informally. But the trouble I think is that it is very invisible, so it is often not clear who is a big shot of an article. Formally, putting an editor should be beneficial. Sometimes it is just so hard to make a decision in certain topics. The editors might seem somehow biased from certain people, but without editors, any controversial articles can be seen biased by certain people either.

The question then is: is it more important that Wikipedia is in chaos but more free or is coherent but conservative? The wikiway is not perfect but so is this proposal. But some more security, some more procedure can make things more organized, if it sounds anti-wiki.

You may say wikipedia is functioning very well. The problems are there are just some problem users like me who should be more silent. I don't think so. I think it is more of structural problem rather than an individual. We have lost many great contributers who tend to be engaged in controversial topics. Besides, I see the emerge of a tread among wikipedians to make a significant change only because they don't want to go to edit wars. The absence of dispute is not agreement, but maybe because they just give up convincing others--ok. this is your article if that makes you happy. That is not a way we want to go.

Directly relevant links: Simple English Editor role proposal, probably one of the more demanding.


I don't say implement this proposal right away, but can we do some experiment at least? -- Taku 03:26, Oct 28, 2003 (UTC)

Indeed, many Wikipedians have become worn down in recent weeks, and many others are likely to leave. I think what is really needed is both a defined Wikipedia:Editing process (to eliminate edit wars -- users are under obligation to move to talk pages except in cases of vandalism) and a Wikipedia:Decision making process (e.g. try for consensus for 7 days, if that fails, vote). To deal with personal attacks, I have proposed to Wikipedia:Remove personal attacks. Alternatively, there needs to be a mediation system that functions quickly in case of complaints. I do not think just ignoring attacks is a solution.
En:Wikipedia:troll bridge and Wikipedia Peace Process are two more constructive suggestions in this regard. NEither of which require "editors".
Your proposed system is not as bad as it sounds, either, as it really just formalizes what is already going on: Some users "monopolize" articles and refuse to cooperate with others in improving them. An editor would be under much closer scrutiny to follow a defined set of rules and policies, and could possibly be recalled from an article for doing so.
But I would say that such a system should only be tried if other, more moderate approaches fail. I do believe we should make addressing these problems a priority, or we'll soon see NPOV and Wikiquette falling apart around us, with Wikipedia degenerating into a set of different clubs that don't let any non-members play. If there's no law, the law of the jungle takes over ...—Eloquence 04:58, Oct 28, 2003 (UTC)
What Taku describes sounds somewhat similar to Nupedia, and we all know what happened there. I would be interested in peoples' best guesses about what percentage of actively edited articles each day experience "nasty edit wars" or "pure personal attacks." My gut feeling is that it is not an epidemic, and a relatively small number of anomalous cases are being cited to drive radical proposals for the entire Wikipedia (editors, refactoring). Fuzheado 05:56, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I should just point out that refactoring is not a radical new suggestion; it's essential to how wiki works. It's the process by which we have always created articles here at Wikipedia, through iterative improvement, additions and partial rewrites and cleanup. It may sound new because "refactoring" is a jargon term which will be more familiar to people who have hung out on Ward's Wiki and is less used here, but the concept is central to how this place works.
As far as the worry that we're losing valuable contributors! We've heard this cry to action time and again over the last years. It's even true, we always have been losing valuable contributors. And gaining other valuable contributors. There's a turnover as people lose interest and new people come in, and there's nothing wrong with this... we can't expect everyone who visits the site to spend several hours a day slaving away for free for the rest of their lives!
If anything we should ask ourselves how to get contributors to spend less time at Wikipedia and feel less personally invested in "content wars". I think there's no need for editors to fight off contributors in their fiefdoms; we just need people to remember that it's just an encyclopedia. If something makes you mad, back away from the keyboard and take a walk, read a book, write a program. The project's design is to approach quality asymptotically, and we don't have a deadline. Relax and take your time.
(Side note: anyone who does want a project that publishes only high-quality material is more than welcome to start an auxiliary project to put out vetted, fact-checked, expert-approved, non-insulting 'known-good' releases of Wikipedia articles. Larry talked about starting one long ago ("Sifter") but as far as I know there has not been enough interest to get it going yet.) --Brion 09:51, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)
I agree with everything you mentioned -- refactoring is integral for the articles yes, and I have problems only with refactoring in Talk pages. Fuzheado 10:04, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)
Me, I think refactoring is important for talk pages too. There's a tendency to accumulate many kilobytes of back-and-forth which is hard to follow because half of it is false leads, but the outcome of the discussion may be quite relevant to how the associated article is treated. The back-and-forth remains in the page history and can be called up or linked to at will, but summarizing the outcome and the basic outline of the arguments involved will usually be more helpful to future contributors than twenty pages of repetitious argument.
You can look at that as an archival task, something to be done later when no one's involved anymore, or as a continuous process in the evolution of a discussion, consolidating what's been said to reduce duplication and lowering the barrier to entry for other people entering the discussion by 'compressing' the amount of text they'd have to read to get up to speed. If you've ever tried to figure out what's at issue in an "edit war" (read: "childish pissing match") that's been brewing for a few days, you know it's nearly impossible to get through the reams of diatribes and catch up to the current point of contention. As a result, I suspect many people don't try, leaving the angry parties to their fight. Many of these would end up being just a couple paragraphs long if they were properly factored; one party stating their position, the other party stating why the other guy stating theirs, and each presenting some items in favor of their position. --Brion 10:30, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I didn't think my proposal would be accepted quickly but I am happy to know that others share my concern. Actually I know the proposal sounds Nupedia but it is nothing radical actually. Even if the article has an editor, you can still edit or even move the article. It will get you in trouble. Having formal editors are beneficial particularly for new comers. As you keep contributing in wikipedia, you started to see the nature of edit wars, informal rules and laws. You can edit freely means more like you can kill anyone physically but actually it is almost impossible to do in the real world. I am very in line with Eloquence's attempts, with slight difference in ideas.

What I think most beneficial is to make a distinction between writers and edtiros. They are still both wikipedia contributors but I believe such distinction might radically change the way we contribute in wikipedia later on and make things much more clear-cut, particularly responsibility. Most of edit wars are of editorial conflicts. Dicussion is the worst way to reach editorial decisions, which we have seen enough.

Wikipedia itself is an innovative idea known as wiki-way. I would like to see if it can produce really a great encyclopedia or not. But I don't want to see an experiment curb the necessity of implemention of some important measures too. Again, I want to ask which one is more important to keep believing in the perfection of wiki-way or try revisionist style?

Can we even test editors in heated articles or monopolized articles? Actually I have a number of articles I have monopolized so far. It comes to happen inevitablly because in my opinion, people try to damage my article, my points. And not surprisingly I get fierce resistence if I try to invade other's articles. What a joke. Having no formal editor doesn't mean there is no editor and articles are created, edited based on consensus among people.

What I fear is my feeling that the situation seems to be getting worse now. Wikipedia used to be more at-home-like more peacful, and more importantly fun to hang out. Disputes though seem to be more prevalent nowadays. It is inevitable as wikipedia attracts more people. Japan-related artciles for instance are still in peace but it is the matter of time they become ablaze.

I have never imagined I would leave wikipedia at all but it might be the case somedays not because I am tired of disputes but because I hate to see wikipedia fails.

-- 21:54, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)

All I really want to say is that choosing to do this will destroy most of the rationale behind Wikipedia. I am certain that, as you all have noted above, there are benefits to such a situation. And I don't want anyone to think I'm objecting out of some personal distress--as a sysop on the English Wikipedia with degrees in English Literature and History, and four years of graduate school under my belt, I'm the sort of person who would be selected for the increased powers of the editor. I would love such a role...too much, I think. The possibilities for abuse are real, and frightening. I will admit many of the criticisms. Wikipedia is not perfect. There are arguments. There are struggles. There are days when I throw up my hands and retreat from the screen. But the underlying principle--that most people can be reasonable enough and intelligent enough to pool their knowledge and create a usable resource--is a sound one, and one that deserves a much longer and more diehard defense before we abandon ship on the whole idea and create a bureaucracy (some would say, petty dictatorships) to manage people into behaving properly. This is just my opinion, and perhaps you all think it quite invalid. But I thought it needed saying. I still believe in Wikipedia's goals and vision, and I think we're all letting a few disputes rattle us too much. Just my two cents. All my best to all of you, Jwrosenzweig 23:51, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I also have major qualms about this suggestion, though I sympathise with the intention behind it. In my opinion this particular suggestion would cause more problems. Firstly, the issue of assigning an editor to a specific article is a recipe for disaster. Who do you choose? Do you elect them? Is decided by Jimbo? Nasty, nasty, nasty. Secondly, it takes away the principle of collaborative authorship. The editor doesn't author, but gets to choose which version is most NPOV and best, that sounds like an author to me. This will lead to their being a status quo and an official line. Nasty!. Thirdly, I call into question that someone should have at least a degree, this is the old chestnut that academic standards are the only standards. There are a very many very intelligent people in this world, and some would say more practical, who are are quite capable and do add to the quality of Wikipedia. This will lead to elitism. I don't see why any potential referee's etc can't evolve out of the system on the basis of what they do on Wikipedia. I do understand the intention behind the proposal, but it needs to be met in a better way. : 16:53, 7 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I think all of these points are addressed in my counter proposal at m:Referees. Interested in your comments on this. Andrewa 09:30, 15 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I have another proposal to address the same needs without changing the Wikipedia culture one iota... see Referees. Andrewa 01:14, 30 Oct 2003 (UTC)