a nice mail about getting things done ... and patience.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Michael Snow <wikipe...@frontier.com>
Date: Wed, May 15, 2013 at 8:45 AM
Subject: [Wikimedia-l] Patience
To: Wikimedia Mailing List <wikimedi...@lists.wikimedia.org>

I originally wrote this message last year on a nonpublic list. It
seemed to be well received, and some people asked me to share it
publicly, but I didn't get around to it then. I think this would be a
good time to share it here now. It is not specifically directed at
recent issues here, but I think it does have some relevance. (I have
some thoughts more directly related to those matters as well, which I
hope to share when I have time to write them down. That might not
happen until late Friday, which is probably not the best time for it,
but based on recent history perhaps I can still hope some people will
be reading then.)

Internet technology is known for letting things happen much faster
than they did before we were all so connected. This speed now seems
normal to us and, being immersed in that culture, we have come to
expect it. Wikis, as one aspect of that culture, have the feature of
making that speed a personal tool - you can make something happen
right away. How many of us got involved because we saw a mistake and
figuratively couldn't wait to fix it? And when we discovered that we
literally didn't have to wait, we were hooked.

One result of this is a culture that caters to impatience, sometimes
even rewards it. And that's why we are often tempted to think that
being irritable is a way of getting things done. We imagine: this
problem should be instantly solved, my idea can be implemented right
away, I will be immediately informed about whatever I care about. But
as our culture grows in scale, none of that remains true (and perhaps,
we get more irritated as a result).

I wish I could say that because it's a matter of scale, technology
will take care of things because that's how we handle scaling.
However, the issue is not about whether the technology will scale, but
whether the culture will scale. On a cultural level, scaling issues
are not handled by technology alone. They are handled by establishing
shared values (be bold, but also wait for consensus), by agreeing upon
standard procedures (which provide important protections when designed
well, but also introduce delays), and by dividing up responsibilities
(which requires that we trust others).

That last bit is critical; people have repeatedly suggested a certain
mistrust underlies the repeated flareups. Well, the reason that
mistrust has grown so much is because we are often impatient, and take
shortcuts in order to "get things done" (or so we believe). The
impatience manifests on all sides--to illustrate: volunteers get
impatient about the effort needed for any kind of policy change,
chapters get impatient about requirements to develop internal controls
and share reports on their activities, staff get impatient about time
involved in consulting with the community. Everyone thinks it would be
so much better if they were free to just do things and not have to
deal with these hassles. But in every one of these scenarios, and I'm
sure I could come up with many more, if we let impatience guide us,
inevitably more trust will be drained out of the system.

Patience as a virtue is in short supply on the internet. It is not
native to our culture, but we must apply it in order to scale.
Fortunately, it is simply a matter of maturity and self-control at
appropriate moments. I encourage us all to practice it.

--Michael Snow

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