Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A different atmosphere

On the planet Wikimedia and in other places, I read posts frequently from disgruntled wikipedians. As I read over these posts, I find myself saying on a point-by-point basis that "Wikibooks doesnt have this problem", or "Wikibooks doesnt have that problem". And while I can't speak for all the sister projects, I can tell you that in my experience, the level of discontent is higher among the Wikipedians then it is among any other community group under the WMF.

I know that Wikipedia does have to face a number of problems that the other sister projects don't face, or that they haven't faced yet. There is the sentiment that Wikipedia is in some kind of competition with other encyclopedias (notably Britannica, which is mentioned most frequently), and also the fact that Wikipedia has grown a fair level of name recognition. When you know that the neighbors are watching, you do tend to put on a bit of a show, after all. Also, because wikipedia has grown so famous, there is certainly the urge for people to write up an article about everything, which has spawned a large network of "notability guidelines", many of which are very strict and rigid.

What the sister projects don't seem to have, or at least they don't seem to have it as much, is the drama. We don't have "factions", and we rarely have "trolling". There is no such thing as a "deletionist" or an "inclusionist". We have never voted to delete our Counter-Vandalism Unit. Bureaucracy, too, is something that many of the sister projects are proud to avoid. To put things into perspective about how little bureaucracy Wikibooks has, I had previously proposed a version of the "KISS" guideline, and the community rejected it as being "instruction creep". In this case, I suppose, the community preferred to lead by example.

Discussions are typically not heated, and very focused on the positive. People are congratulated on their successes, forgiven for their mistakes, and encouraged to continue their work. We block vandals quickly, we don't block our editors at all, and we respect everybody's best efforts.

The sister projects are hardly utopian, and I don't want to make it sound like we are so great, and Wikipedia is so bad. However for anybody who has grown a little weary of the hustle and bustle of Wikipedia, the sister projects share the same ideals of free content while fostering a very different working atmosphere. Sometimes a change of pace is all you really need to get your creative juices flowing again.


  1. Money can ruin anything. I suspect that some marketing guru could estimate how much an article on Wikipedia is worth. Wikipedia has articles such as Vue, articles that you would never find in any other encyclopedia. Maybe Wikipedia should charge an advertising fee for articles about companies and move the articles to Wikipedians get to do battle over biographical articles about non-notable people.....articles that only exist as attack pages or as self-promotion. I once deleted an article that was apparently little more than a recruiting poster for a street gang.....Wikipedians have to struggling daily to keep such articles from being created and re-created. Since Wikipedia became a well-known website, it has been swamped with editors who have no respect for the idea of providing readers with solid encyclopedic information. POV-pushing and propaganda has become a serious problem with people taking "ownership" of articles and making it hell for others to edit them according to policy. What fun. Are other Wikimedia wiki projects immune from such problems or is it just a matter of time.....when a wiki becomes well-known must it suffer?

  2. I think it also has to do with the size of Wikipedia; the most common contributors on a project as small as Wikibooks all know eachother by pseudonym, whereas I doubt even seasoned Wikipedia vets know most of the people who show up on the RC feed. They need all of the beaurocratic stuff that they have because there's too many different viewpoints to reconcile without it, IMO. Not that I don't hope Wikibooks doesn't grow, but I do hope that as we do people can get along.