Submissions/guide to biting newcomers

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

After careful consideration, the Programme Committee has decided not to accept the below submission at this time. Thank you to the author(s) for participating in the Wikimania 2014 programme submission, we hope to still see you at Wikimania this August.

Submission no. 1040
Title of the submission

Guide to Biting Newcomers

Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)

discussion? presentation?

Author of the submission

Bob Goodwin; Bob the goodwin

E-mail address


Bob the goodwin

Country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)


Personal homepage or blog

Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

I am a newcomer to Wikipedia. I was attracted to Wikipedia to learn about crowd sourcing, and also because I had used it for medical advice and found it wanting. Learning the culture and skills takes some time, and it is easy to look foolish. But the real shock is how aggressive the world of editors is. The rules mean very little, because the rules are mostly weapons arbitrarily used against the uninformed. We are told to assume good intent, yet are assaulted with accusations, implied threats, and lists of rules we are breaking. There are actually two sets of rules. Experienced editors can delete or change anything and do not need to have discussions on the talk page. Newbies must never delete or change anything without discussion. Experienced editors can ask for proof, and dismiss any proof that is given, before reversing an edit. Inexperienced editors must provide proof that can easily be dismissed, before reversing an edit.

The act of building consensus rarely involves facts or discussions. It involves repeating opinion, ridiculing others, and wearing people down. It involves re-establishing the status quo. Only the serfs are expected to assume good intent.

Why do we do this? Because we have to. Their is no neutral voice, there is only the establishment voice. Great popularity attracts POV editors. So the experienced editors must find the most narrow establishment voice possible and marginalized the horde. Medicine especially is an area that must narrowly find the establishment voice. People use Wikipedia for medical advice. We must make sure that we provide the advice that is most consistent with the medical establishment. We rely on the thin hope that the New England Journal of Medicine will tell us every truth we need. In most cases it does.

But not every encyclopedic article is unambiguous. Yet there are fanatic experienced editors who are deeply suspicious of controversy. No matter how complete your understanding of the subject, and no matter how clear your evidence, a gang of editors will show up to discourage you. There never will be a discussion of facts, there will be a discussion of wrongs. There never will be a debate about sources, there will be an assertion of indent. People will get mad, and leave. Wikipedia will be left to those who are established.

What should we do about this?

There are several obvious answers. The first answer is to tell the truth. The truth is that there are several tiers of editors. Create a metric for editors which estimates their power. Make that metric public. We won't like how the power is held, but at least we will be honest.

Alternatively if the rules are not different between tiers of editors, then make the rules matter. Appealing rule violations is silly for newcomers. (If you don't believe me, do an anonymous experiment.) Try at any level to discuss a rule with an experienced editor. They will just switch to another rule.

The probable third solution is to find a way to protect newcomers from getting bitten. This is hard given the horde of incompetent editors.

So we have a case of game theory where the game is provably unstable.

  1. The output has value.
  2. Everyone has access.
  3. There are rules, but they are enforced at the will of gangs.
  4. The ultimate arbiters, the administrators, must choose gangs to support.
  5. With more rabble, the gangs become more efficient.
  6. The administrators must maximize the sum of value of the output, so choose effective and established gangs.
  7. The administrators want more editors. But only gang approved editors are accepted.
  8. Wikipedia settles on the best gangs.

If we love our existing editors, they should be anointed. If we want more diversity, we need neutral rules and gates. The world needs to know the answer to crowd sourcing information, and Wikipedia is the only example in a position to lead. Gangs may be acceptable in the medical pages of Wikipedia, but it is unlikely to be the answer in 100 years for all knowledge. We must lead the science of rules and gates. The goal must be to democratize wisdom, and not to effectively support the capture of wisdom by gang.

Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?

not sure. I just want to make a better encyclopedia.

Slides or further information (optional)
Special requests

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