"Content dispute resolution is impossible."

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"Content dispute resolution is impossible."

Post by Abd » Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:08 pm

No wonder Wikipedia criticism goes nowhere fast. The critics are clueless about what could be possible. Poetlister, on Wikipediocracy:

It would be virtually impossible to have content dispute resolution on Wikipedia. That would require a subject expert trusted by both parties. Content disputes almost by definition are nearly always in controversial areas, so at least one party would decry the expert as biased.
This is not even wrong. It incorporates a series of assumptions about what "content dispute resolution" would mean.

First of all, suppose it means finding an actual editorial consensus, or at least a high level of agreement. Wikipedia's structure was designed to avoid responsibility, so that is a core issue. There is no definition of what person or group of people is responsible for the quality of the project. This took it completely out of how traditional encyclopedias were written and edited. They had a publisher who was responsible, legally and economically, to the public. Articles were written by experts, but not edited by them, generally.

It is generally possible for groups of modest size to find 100% consensus -- or close -- with facilitation. That is, consensus must be an explicit goal. If someone in the group is seeking instead to 'win' arguments, it becomes obvious in practice. Neutrality is not a thing, a fixed condition, but is best understood as a collective state that can be measured by the degree of agreement of the knowledgeable. To find genuine consensus in a large project, directly, is probably impossible, but it is possible through delegation and representation, which, of course, were explicitly rejected by the community. But let's set that aside.

So at the second level, who decides how to resolve a dispute. The comment seems to assume that a content dispute will be decided by an expert, which is not how it would actually be done. Rather, experts advise, they do not normally decide. Decisions are made by a responsible decider! If the goal is a neutral encyclopedia, there would be management dedicated to that, and they would set up an administrative structure that would identify editors likewise dedicated to that purpose. These would organize discussion of issues, and the goal of such discussions would be that all sides of an issue be presented, in an organized way, so that it is accessible. Not a collection of hundreds of comments by drive-by editors!

The deciding editor would synthesize this into text, which would again be reviewed by the experts. Minority points of view can be incorporated as such. Opinions can be attributed to experts. It is definitely possible, but it's never been done. I actually argued before ArbCom that experts should be declared COI. That was ridiculed, because to Wikipedians, COI is a dog whistle for "Block!!!" In fact, they would be protected, encouraged to advise, because people with a COI are much more likely to be expert on a topic. But also they might be "biased." So what? If the project is to be verifiable, an expert is far more likely to know useful sources, and to interpret them correctly.

It is clear that Poetlister has never put much effort into understanding how a neutral encyclopedia might function.

"Consensus" on an article would not be a fixed thing but behind the article would be a structure that explains why the text is the way it is. Articles would be protected by flagged revisions, and challenges to the consensus would be possible, by extension of what was built by the editorial process. I saw a few rather feeble attempts to do this with some articles, to avoid the same issues being argued over and over, as talk subpages. Mostly, those were attempts by cabal editors to stop others from attempting to balance the article in the direction the cabal thought wrong.

The core problem on Wikipedia is lack of positive responsibility, coupled with power. Responsibility without power is a curse!

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