Wednesday, August 01, 2007

How to stop the drama

The drama surrounding SlimVirgin's supposed "outing" as Linda Mack continues to grow. Jayjg, Crum375, and others continue to suppress all discussion of the matter on Wikipedia itself and, from what I've seen, have taken to attacking anyone who discusses it on the mailing lists. It's too late for them, I suppose, to recognize that the best way to deal with such allegations is to passively ignore them. But that horse left the barn last June when Jayjg went on his oversighting spree. We can only hope that the fire that they've kindled and keep feeding burns them all badly enough that they don't ever do it again.

Meanwhile, there's two interesting developments that have come out of this. First, we have Ben Yates calling for a policy requiring all admins to be nonanonymous. His reasoning seems to be that admins are, by their very prominence on the site, likely to come under scrutiny, and by being anonymous they just encourage this sort of "outing drama" that we're seeing right now. This isn't the first such incident; there's been plenty more. Yes, this will reduce the number of people willing to be admins, but I haven't seen evidence that Wikipedia is short on admins; if anything, there are too many.

The other interesting development is Andrew Gray's call for everyone involved in this incident to leave. His argument is that the drama, noise, smoke, and fire generated by the people involved in this situation is harming the encyclopedia, and that the only way to protect the encyclopedia from it is for the involved parties to go away.

Basically these are two sides of the same coin. Andrew's proposal is damage control; Ben's proposal is geared to avoid future damage. Both are right, and I support both of them completely.

Update: Stan Shebs has responded to Andrew's call, calling it appeasement. Stan is, however, wrong. While there may well be some people involved in this who are trying to make Wikipedia fail, in most cases the attacks are from people who are attacking Linda Mack, or attacking something that Linda Mack stands for, or perhaps attacking something that SlimVirgin stands for. The conflicts are personal, and they are focused on the persons involved in this conflict. The departures of these persons will end Wikipedia's involvement in these conflicts. Even most of the people who are seeking to make Wikipedia fail are doing so because of a prior personal conflict with another Wikipedian. Andrew's highly appropriate response is here.