How do you pass an elephant through the eye of a needle? With force of course.

8 November, 2010 at 22:31 | Posted in Israeli-Arab conflict, Wikipedia policy | 1 Comment
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If you feel frustrated about the Middle East conflict, you are not the only ones. Well, yes, President Obama seems quite frustrated too, but even more than that, the admins on the English-language Wikipedia feel helpless in face of endless cyberspace wars between pro-Israeli and pro-Arab editors on Wikipedia. The admins have been called to convene on yet another “Project Page”, let off steam and comment on some suggestions about the matter.

The “Arbitration Committee” of the English-language Wikipedia has already addressed this issue in January 2008, and decided that “Wikipedia is a project to create a neutral encyclopedia” and that “Wikipedia users are expected to behave reasonably, calmly, and courteously” and also that “Wikipedia works by building consensus. This is done through the use of polite discussion”. In short, the Arbitration Committee had nothing to say about the matter accept shouting “behave!” at the wayward children. It did, however, provided the admins with new “rules of engagement”, regarding the use of the lethal cyberspace weapons they already possess. Consider the following article in its decision (emphases added).

Any uninvolved administrator may, on his or her own discretion, impose sanctions on any editor working in the area of conflict if, despite being warned, that editor repeatedly or seriously fails to adhere to the purpose of Wikipedia, any expected standards of behavior, or any normal editorial process. The sanctions imposed may include blocks of up to one year in length; bans from editing any page or set of pages within the area of conflict; bans on any editing related to the topic or its closely related topics; restrictions on reverts or other specified behaviors; or any other measures which the imposing administrator believes are reasonably necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of the project.

The admins used the weapons handed to them abundantly as can be seen in the log kept for recording the course of events. If you look at the names of the administrators who impose the bans and restrictions, you will notice that there are no longer “uninvolved administrators”. Actually, I am sure there are, but they are unwilling to enter this hot kitchen. Those who are willing, have by now become involved in this cyberspace conflict up to their neck, and it is hard to treat them as impartial at this point.

Looking at their suggestions to lower the ever growing flames, you will see much more of the same. If solving the conflict is as hard as passing an elephant through the eye of a needle, the admins suggest to force the elephant even harder into the tiny hole. Well, admins, take a deep breath and realize that what you have been doing so far is wrong. There are politically motivate editors who have been gaming the system. Show them the door. They do not deserve the benefit of the “assume good faith” principle. Many good editors were blocked, but peculiarly not these ones. Do without the edit war phobia. Edit wars are often a blessing. Let people argue and fight about the right phrasing and the right way to put things. If they act in good faith, this “war” might end with an interesting solution. If you see an edit war, do not look for the person who initiated it. Look at the content and think if you can rewrite it in a way that would solve the problem. A good admin is first and foremost a good editor, not a virtual policeman.

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  1. […] Kamir, a frequent commentator on this blog, has a blog of his own on which he regularly posts knowledgeable articles about the biased writing and systemic problems of […]

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