Wiki management

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Wiki management applies when there is potential for users in conflict in a large public wiki.

Responsible management "attempts to implement" some mission statement with "policy decisions suitable for" that mission. Little can be said in general about wiki operations without detailed consideration of how the operational distinctions that will be made will affect that mission.

Although they may not adopt the New Troll point of view uncritically, they should at least consider it, before they adopt sysop vigilantiism tactics, and they should try to remain as troll-friendly as possible as long as possible to ensure that they have robust ways to handle users in conflict that do not favour any side in a political dispute or identity dispute.

Despite this good advice, much wiki ideology has evolved under blanket terms like "virtual community", "soft security", "hard security", or "wiki way" that is often claimed to be applicable to all wiki technology. This is a highly questionable claim. There is not even one widely accepted wiki ontology in which to discuss these terms:

It has taken considerable effort even just to discover what "trolls really are." It appears that they are simply users who anger others, who could be anyone, and who insist on some due process and bottom-up authoritative integrity, and in doing so tend to annoy the sysop power structure, which will eventually block IP rather than continuing to deal with their dissent. One can in general globally subsitute the word "heretic" for the word "troll" and clarify the theological power structure considerably. It is no accident that the term GodKing is used to describe the user of last resort.

Many including Consumerium:Itself seek to defy such authoritarian models.

More experienced users, such as Ward Cunningham, recognize the heritage of prior public online discussion media (e.g. Usenet), prior inhouse software development repository technology, text database management, and various problems (such as dominance by a particular clique or "cabal") that seem to arise in all media no matter how open they seem to be at start. See Wikipedia for more on its many failures. However, some of these failures are probably results of "going first":

Web service management using wiki software is a sometimes complex problem often confused with issues in text corpus management, web service management in general, nonprofit governance and wikitext standards. Meta-Wikipedia and MeatballWiki attempt some amateur discussion of this but in general they very badly confuse the above issues. They are not recommended for the serious professional student of the problem. For serious use, refer the following:

  • en:c2:WikiManagement
  • Consumerium wiki management (analysis of particularly complex management problem in contentious competitive commercially-important proposed wiki)

Consumerium wiki management[edit]

Wiki management of the Content Wiki and Opinion Wiki, and the sysop power structure of each, is a major concern of Consumerium Governance. It must be supervised by the Consumerium Governance Organization under the guidance of a genuinely independent board.

A poorly managed wiki, e.g. those run by Wikimedia, can generate legal and goodwill problems that spread far beyond their own services. For instance, a libel pit amplified by an echo chamber can generate an unlimited number of cease and desist letters from individuals who believe, probably correctly, they have been misrepresented or slandered by a bad copy problem or broken telephone picking up the output of the echo chamber.

democratic user roles[edit]

We may require formal Wiki Editor and Wiki Lawyer/advocate/mediator roles to guide Wiki Sysop behaviour. Left on their own they tend to be little tin gods - each hoping to grow up to be GodKing. This shouldn't be encouraged. Nor should a clique of usurpers doing sysop vandalism, which seems to be the next step in the "evolution" away from GodKings to some priestly hierarchy. None of these poor management methods will be able to generate or respond to real world pressures, and only work in a fantasy world, like video games, which seem to be where many of these people learn all they actually know about management.

Consumerium buying signal will not stand up under scrutiny in a democratic society, or even cease and desist letters directed to its board, unless it has democratic sysop power structure. Good sysops are disposable, period. Good editors are not. And good lawyers can keep your project going when it otherwise would be flushed down the toilet (see reference to Wikimedia above, which will almost certainly be destroyed by failure to democratize in time).

problems[edit]

Specific wiki management problems include, from longest to shortest term:

infrastructural[edit]

  • Picking wiki code that actually makes it easy to do the above, and avoiding that which has requirements set by a small clique of control freaks.

social[edit]

  • Detecting and moderating usurper behaviour before they must be driven off by trolls; making sure that trolls do not unfairly charge the usurpers with things they have not actually done, or create their own echo chamber.

instructional[edit]

  • Degrading or placing on standby the status of those engaged in ad hominem delete or other transparency-reducing, content-degrading tactics, which can easily result in the database falling into a state where it is legally liable.
  • Desysopping those who participate in creating or echoing spun threats, or granting these credibility or official status beyond what was actually said; this sort of libel has extremely serious consequences in an age of no-fly lists. If a comment is an actual threat of specific violence, it must be investigated. If not, then claims that it is, must be put to rest, before the conflict over the comment escalates to the point of violence itself.

People will actually care about the material we manage here. Jobs, companies, perhaps whole industries or national economies, will be at stake. It's foolish to imagine that Consumerium will not have all the same problems, and worse, than have been seen in every other large public wiki, and some they haven't yet seen. If we are not prepared for the problems they have seen, it's not possible to be prepared for problems they haven't...


C2 vs. Consumerium terminology[edit]

C2 lists "Indications that a WikiManagement change or intervention might be appropriate, include:

  • Excessive use of AdHominem argument that affects WikiOperations, e.g. indiscriminately deleting pages simply because a given/hated person authored them, called AdHominemDelete. This should not be confused with WikiResolution, nor with WikiRefactoring. [but then it adds] In particular, a host/owner has the right to declare an individual an UnwelcomeParty. Once such a declaration has been made, the material from an UnwelcomeParty should rightly be relocated to their WikiHomePage. The distinction between AdHominemDelete, WikiResolution, and UnwelcomeParty is analogous to the distinction between kidnapping, jail, and protective custody."

Note closely the assertion of domain that implies the GodKing role and effectively undoes the prior sentences. Note also the assumption of prison-like power structure. The most extreme cases of these usurper behaviours are called sysop vandalism and sysop vigilantiism and Consumerium would call such sysops the usurpers.

Evidently Mr. Cunningham is suffering some effects from working at Microsoft for the last six years. However C2 is still worth reading for detail. "Some possible WikiManagement changes or interventions might include:

  • Consider the IdealWobblyShop? where supervisors are elected by the shop floor, described in vivid depth by RicardoSemler?, who ran his whole company this way
  • Consider a RevertOnSight? policy for the most disastrous ideologies and ideas: VirtualCommunity, SoftSecurity, CommonSense, SmartMob and LimitedLiability?, and any implication that SysopVandalism? is somehow impossible since "a sysop can't possibly be a vandal!"
  • Consider requiring anonymous contribution with IP only visible in case of a real legal complaint (IBM did research proving strict anonymity among those who worked together was more effective than anything which associated any identity)
  • Consider summary ejection of those who speculate on identity of the anonymous (denying their RightToVanish and dragging issues out with AdHominem problems), forcing them to spend some time anonymous themselves, subject to some WitchHunt
  • Consider rewrites of PersonAsProblem? language such as some habitually use, until they get the message "

All these policies seem quite troll-friendly which suggests that they did not originate with Mr. Cunningham or any other advocate of the GodKing role. Finally note this cautionary advice from Consudev:

  • "a poorly managed wiki, e.g. those run by Wikimedia, can generate legal and goodwill problems that spread far beyond their own services. For instance, a libel pit amplified by an echo chamber can generate an unlimited number of cease and desist letters from individuals who believe, probably correctly, they have been misrepresented or slandered by a bad copy problem or broken telephone picking up the output of the echo chamber."

This will ring especially true to anyone who has experienced the Wikipedia mailing list, which comes very close to embodying the idea of echo chamber.