Dispute resolution analysis group/essay by Filll

Controversial article maintenance; one method that workedEdit

Let me tell you a little story. Let's consider evolution, which is currently an FA-rated article. Now if you look at evolution, it has improved drastically and outside reviewers have even said it was pretty good [1].

However, just a year or two ago, evolution was embattled and under siege. Huge attacks by hordes of creationists and POV warriors. It was downgraded from an FA on February 7, 2007 and maybe wasn't even a GA anymore and was getting worse steadily, while editors quit one after another and the article slowly was eroding. It was a constant effort to even slow the decline as things got worse and worse, and there were extremely heated fights on the talk page between pro and anti-science forces.

What happened to turn it around?

Well, we did several things:

  • We created an FAQ on the talk page, so the same question would not be answered thousands of times
  • We organized the archives to avoid arguing the same thing 10,000 times, so we could just point to the previous discussion, now organized by topic instead of date.
  • We created a new article, introduction to evolution to draw off people from the main page who did not understand it anyway, and to reduce fighting between groups that wanted a more sophisticated professional article and those that wanted a more accessible article
  • We farmed out the troll bait and creationist material to a suite of daughter articles, mostly well written and addressing the most common complaints
  • We started aggressively deleting any comments from antiscience trolls from the talk page, as well as any off-topic discussion.
  • Aggressive POV pushers were directed to other wikis more appropriate for their views like Conservapedia, Research ID, CreationWiki, Creedopedia, Iron Chariots, Wikinfo and others.
  • People who wanted to debate instead of write an encyclopedia were directed to talk.origins or other sites that feature debates on the subject.

The attacks slowed and then almost completely ceased. Then the work on the article could actually focus on improving the article, instead of defending it from ignorant jerks of various flavors. And it improved. And is still improving as a result.

We spend much less effort on maintaining and protecting evolution and it is a better article, and most new edits go towards real improvements, not nonsense. The goal here is to increase the efficiency; more output per unit of input. And therefore get better content into Wikipedia for the amount of effort that is expended.

If we can create systems to make us more effective and efficient by reducing some of the problems, as we did on a small scale at evolution, then that is a good thing, right?

I do not propose this procedure necessarily for all articles, but evolution is a very important subject, so it was worth the effort. And yes, I know many of the daughter articles since I contributed to several of them.

Examples of daughter articles and related articles on controversial materialEdit

There are also many daughter articles to evolution that are more advanced than evolution itself, and cover special details, like evidence of evolution, or modern evolutionary synthesis, or evolution of complexity, and probably at least a couple of hundred more.

So that gives a small sample of some of what has been done to try to fix things. And miraculously, it was fairly successful. However, it was so much work and required so many man hours of so many people including a large number of experts, that I would not suggest it in all cases. Instead, I would suggest trying to find new ways to do the same thing, but in a more efficient way.