Tuesday, February 06, 2007

 

Wars and rumors of civil war?

The current Wikipedia Signpost has an article, "Group of arbitrators makes public statement about IRC", which I recommend everyone not only study but also the articles it links to. Not because of the subject matter itself: I have never participated in IRC because I felt it would be yet another timesink for me, and I have enough of those in my life. The importance of this article is that it is a sign that two factions of Wikipedia insiders are emerging, and unless something is done I suspect that their dispute will tear the project apart.

I can't find the interest to determine just why these two groups have taken a disagreement to each other. Much of this began over a year ago during the "Userbox wars": someone figured out how to create templates containing bumper-sticker slogans that could be placed on a person's user page. Just why these were considered irredeemably evil was never quite explained, but this feeling was used to justify a number of acts (like out-of-process deletions) that served only to alienate volunteers -- when some diplomacy might have prevented hard feelings.

This smoldering hostility has drifted to the next step, where we have two groups of Wikipedians sniping at each other offline. While I've been known to make snide comments about certain Wikipedians offline, for me this is simple venting to people otherwise uninvolved in the matter, not the us vs. them dynamic that clearly is beginning to develop. I don't think this hostility has gotten to where their disagreements cannot be somehow be resolved -- right now, only a limited fraction of active Wikipedians are involved; most Wikipedians are probably barely aware -- if at all -- that this feud even exists.

Only it is from silly, unnoticed things like these that vicious wars emerge from -- both online, and in life. And as in real life, no actually wins a war -- some just survive it better than others.

Geoff

P.S. If this post is more confused than usual, it's because I am struggling with a bad cold. Blame it all on Michael Snow for writing such a good article for the Wikimedia Signpost.

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