I think many people here sit back and think why am I doing this, as a grown man, brain the size of a planet and so on.
The answer in the end always comes down to the fundamental of the disgust we feel that Wikipedia is a wasted opportunity and the world is being openly lied to and those lies work.
There is the lie that Wikipedia’s system produces a sum greater than its parts, that it can invent knowledge out of ignorance; the lie that there is a thoughtful, caring community; the lie that Wikipedia is helping foster knowledge rather than insidiously destroying it. Jimbo is the enabler for that, and by now we cannot do anything but believe that he knowingly accepts the situation on Wikipedia and has no interest in solving Wikipedia’s problems, preferring instead to feather his own nest through the ill-perceived reputation of the project.
Jimbo is only one part of the corruption that is the WMF and Wikipedia community, but he chooses to be the figurehead for the status quo rather than the radical reformer.
So anyone with any honesty and decency struggles to walk away and let the lunatics not only take over the asylum, which they most surely have, but let them out into open society and be treated as world leaders (even if only of a tin-pot dictatorship).
Jimbo gets to go on the world stage and spout his nonsense purely off the back of the supposed success of Wikipedia.
How can you walk away when you understand what is going on here?
The following was written in response to dogbiscuit:
By Tim Davenport /// “Carrite” (Wikipedia username) /// “Randy from Boise” (Wikipediocracy username)
This is a very thoughtful expression of the motivation of many of the core people at Wikipediocracy, as you are. I’ll try to reply in the same vein as a Wikipedian who still believes and always will believe in the project — looking at it with a realist’s eyes and a reformer’s heart. Apologies for the length.
There are things in life that can be changed and things in life that can not be changed. The internet is here to stay. Old forms of knowledge storage and transmission are vanishing and new forms replacing them. This is an economic and social phenomenon bigger than any human and bigger than the human will to alter. It is as inevitable as the waxing and waning of the tide. It is not fruitful to blame anyone or anything for this new world; it simply is.
Whatever one thinks of Wikipedia or the group of people behind Wikipedia, it is a fundamental part of the new information world. I state this as an axiomatic premise, validated every time anyone uses their smart phone. The content of Wikipedia matters — the world depends upon it. It needs to be as accurate as possible, as free of overt bias as possible, as coherently written as possible, as visually appealing as possible, as free of vandalism as possible. It doesn’t need a million active writers, or a 51% female contingent of writers, or to have writers who perfectly reflect all the national, cultural, social, and demographic variables of the earth — it needs to be good. This is the main mission.
Since it is so important to humanity in the new information age, Wikipedia is not going to go away. Neither will the people behind it ever have trouble raising money. Anyone who believes otherwise is dreaming. Profits are already being generated from the content by those commercial entities in a position to actually replace that content (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). They are thoroughly disincentivized. There is no alternative to Wikipedia, nor will there be for the foreseeable future. It follows that the task is to repair and perfect Wikipedia rather than to pine for its replacement.
Anyone who has studied the history of governments or commercial institutions well knows that large institutions are inherently bureaucratic and that bureaucracies tend to grow over time. Paid staffs expand, layers of specialized functionaries appear and become irreplaceable, the documents of internal regulation proliferate. Compensation of the managerial elite balloons. Wikipedia is not immune to the phenomenon of bureaucratization; indeed, it is a bureaucratic infant. It is foolish to imagine that such a tendency can be halted, even if its decision-makers were consciously committed to stopping it. Bureaucratic degeneration is an inevitable part of life, to be understood and accepted as natural, even as its excesses are fought.
Some things can be changed, some things can not be changed. We must always bear that in mind and learn to know the difference.
Wikipedia as a Utopian Movement.
As anyone who has delved into my editing history already knows, my intellectual background is in the history of international socialism. I think this is one of the reasons that the politics of Wikipedia’s internal governance are so interesting to me. Wikipedia is essentially a utopian self-governing collective on the one hand; a proliferating quasi-commercial bureaucracy on the other. The tension between these two contradictory poles is fascinating. I think it would be helpful if other people came to understand Wikipedia as a Utopian movement.
“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”
You may roll your eyes at this statement for its naiveté. You may think this is a conscious lie to divert the eye from pockets being picked. It is neither of these things. It is a fundamental statement of ultra-idealistic belief, the foundation upon which the entity we know as Wikipedia has been built. It is a line that Sue Gardner can repeat with feeling in a room full of strangers and draw applause. It is a fundamental belief which can keep underpaid software engineers coming to work for a dysfunctional management team every day. It is an idea which drives thousands of people every month to give freely of their time.
Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries there have been innumerable attempts of True Believers in a cause or an idea to gather, to cloister themselves from others, and to attempt to build a new, principle-based reality for themselves. These efforts have invariably failed, whether they happened in early industrial England or on the American frontier or in the first years of revolutionary Russia. At best such Utopian efforts floundered along for a generation or two before they were commercialized or sucked up by bureaucratic governments. Still: Wikipedia is barely older than a decade — even less than that if one tosses away the first three years or so years where it emerged in obscurity. There are still True Believers and they still believe, even as the bureaucracy inevitably expands…
On Ceremonial Kings…
Jimmy Wales? What is he? It is an interesting question. Not so simple, really. On the face of it, he’s a capitalist internet entrepreneur. It should have been an easy process for him to have effectively monetized this thing — and I’m not talking about a few hundred thousands of dollars (or even a million or two) in speaking fees. He could have been an internet billionaire, yet he did not do this. Why?
The answer, I feel, is that Jimmy Wales has proven himself a damned poor Randoid but a fairly consistent anarchosyndicalist over the past decade. He, let us be frank, is himself a True Believer in the project. We all need a religion of some sort; Wikipedia is his. He’s still an internet entrepreneur; he’s still gonna make his bucks. Yet there is a reason why he goes a little crazy over the issue of paid editing — it is a challenge to his fundamental idea of what Wikipedia is, can be, and should be.
He’s a human being. He screws up. Yet, keep this in mind: Jimmy Wales remains the wild card to fundamental Wikipedia reform. A ceremonial king, perhaps, but Juan Carlos of Spain had his role to play in ending fascism and bringing democracy to his native land — even if he does go to Botswana on holiday to shoot elephants like a self-indulgent sultan. I still believe in Jimmy Wales because he still believes in Wikipedia.
Criticize Wikipedia as much as it needs to be criticized. I do it and you should, too. Don’t flinch. Nobody is above criticism, including Jimmy Wales. But do try to maintain a reasonable understanding of what is possible and what is not, and of what you are fighting and why.
Tim Davenport / “Carrite” / RfB