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Proposed revision of the NPOV policy

This page contains proposed revisions to the NPOV policy article. As far as I, Robert Merkel am concerned, the spirit of the NPOV policy and Larry's (bless his contributions) expansions should stay. However, there are certain features of the article that require some minor revision, but before any changes are made I believe that it would be appropriate to discuss them here.


I agree with the nonbias policy but there are some here who seem completely, irremediably biased. I have to go around and clean up after them. What do I do?
This is a very difficult question.
Unless the case is really egregious, maybe the best thing is to call attention to the problem publicly, pointing the perpetrators to this page (but politely--one gets more flies with honey) and asking others to help. If the problem is really serious, Larry Sanger might be enlisted to beat the person over the head (so to speak) and, in the most recalcitrant cases, ask them to leave the project. There must surely be a point beyond which our very strong interest in being a completely open project is trumped by the interest the vast majority of our writers have, in being able to get work done without constantly having to fix the intrusions of people who do not respect our policy.

The problem here, of course, is that Larry Sanger is not around to beat people over the head any more.

I would suggest the following revision to the sentence mentioning Larry:

If the problem is really serious, experienced and respected Wikipedians might be enlisted to beat the person over the head (so to speak) and, in the most recalcitrant cases, ask them to leave the project.

In the absence of the Pandora's box that establishing some more formal governance structure for Wikipedia will undoubtedly be (though it is something the project will have to tackle if it continues to grow as it has) is the above sufficient? --Robert Merkel


It seems to me that the above implies several deviations from what I understand the project to be, admittedly I have only been around a few months and only read the documentation available on the front page a few times. Also, I view the "owners" of the domain and Bomis as equal participants despite some of the heavy handedness some desire of Larry as a representive of the communities established editorial policy. I reason thusly .... the database and code are available if necessary to fork. Also, Jimbo Wale's repeated statements that we take it slow and easy and continue to incrementally evolve the project and his refusal to be heavy handed, despite controlling the domain and physical resources.

Deviations: 1. We are not beating anybody up. We are inviting the entire public to use our wikipedia, data and code. This is what the FPL and GPL imply. Granted we do not have to let them edit until they download into their own web space if they are too irritating. This is at odds with several community members ardent desire to put barriers in the way of forking. Thus we have a bit of schizophrenia here.

2. Why jump to asking if it is suffient? Is it necessary? Perhaps we could establish a new article zone on meta where controversial articles could be written/edited/neutralized with newcomer's until they are better editors with an implicit understanding of our community standards.

This would also give the newcomer the chance to begin impacting the community's common fabric. I anticipate it would be the butterflies, tweakers, and "editors" among us such as I, 24, Merkle, maveric etc. who would participate in such an exercise room. Thus we invite obnoxious overly energetic newcomers (we need not worry about occasional users .... it is the potential wikipediasts, enthusiasts and activists gone amok that we are talking about ..... so it seems to me anyway) to the appropriate educational section and help them massage their articles of interest until it works for them and complies with the applicable NPOV.

3. Is part of the problem that existing wikipediasts are getting attached to articles which newcomers are changing or existing prolific people with community stature wish to maintain that community stature? Is dilution perceived as a threat? If so, then our implicit community fabric needs to evolve to deal with implications of near term and future recruiting efforts.

4. I agree that some form of configuration management and "governance" will probably evolve either here or at some derivative forked sites. Meta seems a pretty good innovation ..... the front page discussion here seems to imply that not many wikipediasts are currently interested in these issues or that sufficient agreement has been reached for most, even if not rigidly documented .... I go now to review the evolving front page ... april's rewrite of much of it was very good last time I looked it over.

w:user:mirwin



The question is, when these people edit articles, do they generally get better, or worse, over time? Everyone looks at the world in a certain way. Personally I have a whole theory of what NPOV is, and it's more "embodied" than the one in force here. I often find people saying things that I find inane or stupid - although they are probably closer to "common sense" than I am... but I'm not here to tell other people how smart I am, I'm here to rewrite until the thing makes sense... and the article always turns out better.

It's everyone's own personal capacity for nitpicking that determines how much energy they put into editing. And of course some people deliberately only write on very controversial topics - specializing in finding the very narrow tightrope between warring fanatics...

Those people are going to annoy you more than the ones who crib history books. But they're also a lot more valuable. They make this a better resource than Brittannica simply by daring to write, be corrected, write again, be flamed, rewrite again, etc., - something a corporation can't economically do for a minor topic.

So, there is an upside to being in constant rewrite. The closer one gets to the issue of NPOV itself, the more "meta value" there is in an given debate. All our choices are ethical choices... we decide what to ignore, and that may determine what is paid attention to in the larger world.

the social capital of this group is one thing, but the way we agree on "neutrality" is another... it's an opportunity to be here, now, doing this, so I don't find it burdensome to edit something 10x to deal with nitpicker objections.

they might find it burdensome to nitpick that much - but if the result is a great article on a tough topic that whole civilizations have gone to war for failure to agree on, heck, that's worth the time.

don't you think?

Personally I find those people more interested in starting arguments than writing articles annoying, and, if they do nothing but peeve people and nothing else works, they *should* be asked to leave. I basically think the policy was fine, except for the fact Larry's not here any more. --Robert Merkel

Skips over the question of *who* asks who to leave - is there an election to establish an editor, or an "editorial party"?

A lot of empires fell apart when their founder died... a policy that relied ultimately on one person's judgement was really not much of a policy at all.

People focus on conflicts more than outcomes. If out of 50 articles there are significant questions about 10, and significant arguments about 5, and unresolved and annoying arguments about 2, people tend to remember the 2... highlighting the need for a governance process.

People interested in meta are interested in meta, and will debate it more happily and get into it quicker - the payoff is that once they understand the meta issue, they tend never to make the same mistake twice... and issues with them tend to be genuine political or values questions, not style or lexical...


See also: Natural point of view