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Wikipedia's spare time problem 
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Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:50 pm
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There's a secret most Wikipedians are loath to admit. Becoming even a moderately useful Wikipedian doesn't require anything more than a basic level of intelligence and a bit of time to learn the code and the rules. Special skills, greater knowledge or higher brain power can only ever make you a more efficient or effective Wikipedian, they are not prerequisites to becoming one. So basically, if you have a bit of spare time, and a device obviously, you too can be a Wikipedian. If you saw some value in that, either to yourself or society.

Admitting this reality to themselves undermines their ultimate desire, namely that one day "Wikipedian" will be seen in the same light as a recognised skilled trade or even a profession, and thus their hours spent infront of a screen will be rewarded, if not with money, then with prestige. They're already some way down the line of achieving that ultimate con-trick, but satisfyingly for those of use who want to see the whole thing come crashing down, it is having a seriously bad unintended consequence.

As we know, across many fronts the Wikipedians are building in ever more complexity into their systems, specifically those aspects relevant to newcomers. User access levels, inclusion standards, draft handling, all have in recent months become more complex, and it doesn't take a genius to see this isn't for the benefit of newcomers in the hopes they might have an easier introduction to Wikipedia and learn the ropes more efficiently. No, this is all about creating a hostile environment for the people and the content they don't want, of which only a tiny proportion is attributable to the mistakes of a well meaning newcomer, someone who can be taught how to be a Wikipedian.

Why do they need these ever more complex defence mechanisms? Well, for reasons no more complex than they lack enough moderately useful Wikpedians with the time and the will to do it the old fashioned way. The maths simply no longer add up, it is no longer viable to assume bad content or bad actors will be stopped by good Wikipedians who possess no special powers or privileges to protect the precious. Arguably they never even got to that point before they started losing well meaning editors hand over fist, but it seems clear that they theoretically could, given Wikipedia has definitely reached peak relevance/importance. There cannot be any higher motivation for bad actors to abuse the system than now, and we are seeing the results.

By not focusing their efforts solely on one thing - making sure good people see value in, and have an easy path to becoming, a Wikipedian, they are losing out on the one thing that could have made them a success. And by that I mean, an encylopedia worthy of the name. Genuinely complete. Genuinely accurate. Genuinely neutral. Genuinely useful. For there is a vast untapped reservoir of people's free time out there, more than enough for Wikipedia to achieve its goal. To illustrate the problem, I shall point to an image I saw a Wikipedian link to recently, albeit ironically not for the purposes of making this point.


Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:22 am
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