Dear all,
The discussion triggered by recent WMF T&S actions has tended to focus on
the merits or otherwise of that specific action (even though as I have
pointed out elsewhere this is very much a case of those who know don;t talk
and those who talk don't know).  So I though it might be helpful to try and
abstract some more general points for discussion.

The long-term future of the Community, and the relationship between the
Foundation and its volunteers is under discussion in an elaborately
structured consultation announced already here in September 2017.  It would
not be particularly helpful to try to run a parallel discussion here.  But
in the short to medium term, it seems that it will be necessary for the
Foundation to take a different stance with respect to the management of the
various projects, and the English Wikipedia in particular.

It is often said that "The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in
practice. In theory, it can never work."  Well, that's half true.  What the
experiment has proved is that the theory was indeed correct -- Wikipedia,
as currently constituted, does not work.  There are two inter-related
aspects to its failure: content and conduct, inextricably related in a
project founded on crowd-sourcing.

Let's look at the content first.  Even on Wikipedia's own terms, it has
failed.  It is a principle that Wikipedia is founded on reliable sources,
and by its own admission, Wikipedia itself is not such a source.  That
bears repetition -- a project aiming to be an encyclopaedia, that compares
itself with Britannica, explicitly is not reliable.  Foundation research
has shown that about one fifth of Wikipedia articles are supported  by
references that are inadequate to support the text or simply are not
there.  That's about a million articles each on of the larger Wikpedias.
Some thousands of those are biographies of living people and in view of the
risk of defamation, no such articles should exist on Wikipedia at all.
There are several thousand articles that are possible copyright violations:
again such articles should not be there.  And when I say "should not", I
mean according to the rules adopted by the Wikipedia volunteer community
itself.

This links to the conduct aspects.  The self-organising policies of the
"encyclopaedia that anyone can edit" have flattened out the formal
hierarchy to the extent that it has been replaced, necessarily, by an
informal but strong hierarchy based on a reputation econiomy.  This creates
an unpleasant and hence ineffective working environment, and makes it all
but impossible to organise a volunteer workforce into coping with the major
violations of content policy alreay mentioned.  Indeed, the conduct policy
makes it all but impossible to effectively handle cases of major abuse,
witting ot uwitting.  For example, one reason for the failure to manage
copyright violations is that some thousand of articles were written by a
volunteer who was unable or unwilling to comply with the copyright
requirements applicable to their contributions   There is simply no
mechanism that allows for contributions to be effectively checked either
when contributed or subsequently, bcause there is no mechanism that makes
it possible to manage or organise the work of the volunteers, and existing
community norms will not accept such a degree of organisation.

These mutually reinforcing failures make to necessary for some degree of
organisation and management of content and conduct to be imposed from
outside the volunteer community.  The Foundation has the resources and is
the only entity that can acquire and deploy the expertise required to do
so.  No doubt this is unpalatable to some of the more vociferous members of
the community -- those who stand highest in the reputation economy and have
most to lose by it being replaced by an effective management policy.  But
the fact remains -- Wikipedia is failing, and in its present form will
inevitably continue to do so.

Foundation or failure -- which is it to be?

Thrapostibongles
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