Thursday, November 11, 2010

Scale up

At the last day of the HBS course there are two cases about organizational scale ups. The first case was about an international nonprofit organization, which has the strongest similarity to WMF from all the cases. Organizational changes often mean a lot of stress inside of the organization.

Shortly after the Foundation was established the first chapters were created. In the following time both the Foundation, the chapters and other formal and informal groups grew up in a more or less organic way. In the past time we are more and more confronted with questions like: Who has which roles? Whom can we expect for what? Who has which duty?

Because our structures are so grassroot and so organical created, it poses some difficulty now to sort all these questions out. This is the reason why the board initiated the Movement Roles workgroup. It is a very important workgroup and its work will have influence on the organisation of the Foundation, the chapters and other friendly or informal groups. Because of this it is very very important, both for the Foundation, as well as the groups that would be potentially affected, to take part in this process, make their suggestions and work together.

At the end of the four days I would say that the course was a good investment for the Foundation. Even though the cases seem to be far distant from our own situation at the first glance, I inevitably discovers again and again similar situations and principles. We got some framework on how to analyse situations systematically, but more of that is that we got excercises in a lot of situations which can face a nonprofit organization in how to concentrate on the most important part of the board work: remain calm, always keep the mission in mind, and communicate.

The course was very intensive. Everyday we studied three to four cases. Every case had a discription of about in average 30 pages. The day started at 7:30 with groupwork on the cases of the day and ends at about 17:00. But that doesn't mean the end of day. On the receptions afterward and on dinner table discussion would go on and on. After I closed my door in the dorm and started my recapitulation about the next days course.

Although the days were very tough, I never felt sleepy in the classrooms because it was so interesting, so challenging and so engaging. I only noticed how tired I got went at the end of the day I shut off the light and fall almost instantly into sleep.

Preparation is important for the course. Who go to the course without studied the cases beforehand would find himself lost quite soon. Because the cases are all quite complicated and long, one need to cross read them one day before again so that the details can come back into the memory.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Theory of Change

One of the most discussed problem on the 4-day HBS course "Governing for Nonprofit Excellence", both on the course as well as off the course, is how to measure the impact of a strategy, an organization and how to measure the performance of an organization as well as its parts.

It is one of the most interested questions by almost all attendees. And it is also important for the WikiMedia Foundation.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question, not even from HBS.

The researchers at HBS consider the question in a very systematic way: At first, every organization has outputs. Outputs are things an organization can influence directly with its strategy and action. And they can be measured directly. In comparison to the outputs are outcomes. In HBS jargon outcomes are effects of an organization with their output. It is less in control of the organization, it is more a public effect. The sum of all outcomes are called impact by the HBS researchers.

For the WikiMedia Foundation, the number of articles is an obvious output. In issuing different policies we can (or can try to) influence this output. It is easy to measure. WikiMedia has a lot of such measurable values, like length of articles, article depth, visitor counts, etc. These are all what we often call metrics when we are discussing on our mailing-list or in the projects.

As everyone of us know, who had took part in these discussions, these metrics are no good measurements. The reason from them to be not good is that one can interpret them in a lot of ways. And they do not necessarily correlate with the outcome we wish.

The outcome we want to achieve is higher quality of our articles, more penetration of our projects, more participation of our users, more diversity of our projects, etc. And these are not so easy to measure.

Let's take the example of article quality. I know discussion about article quality since I joined our editing community. How can you design a measurement for so much articles in more than 270 languages in topics as different as top quark and Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva? The most obvious suggestion is article length. But the sole length of an article doesn't really reflect the quality of an article. An article could be very long, but still badly structured, poorly referenced and contains strong point of view. The article depth is a more sophisticated approach which treats a language version as a whole and tries to calculate how often the articles are updated. Beside technical and methodological problems there are also other difficulties in measuring quality. The perception for a good article and a bad article can differ between the editing community, the general public and experts of their fields. Each of these groups can have different criteria for quality of articles. For example the general public may value an article as higher quality because it is more comprehensible, but comprehensible may mean for an expert explanations that contain more ambivalent and misleading analogues.

Because of the difficulty of measurement of outcomes there is often a big gap between the measurable output of an organization and its impact. This problem is annoying for most of nonprofit organizations and highly uncomfortable for their boards. Nevertheless most of the organizations believe that they achieve impact with their work. The HBS researchers call this believe Theory of Change. It is a hypothetical and in many cases unproved theory about if we do this, than we will change the society in that way, and that would lead to the fulfillment of our mission. Most strategies of nonprofit organizations are based on theories of change.

So the theory of change of article length is that longer articles tend to contain more information, tend to be more thorough and thus of higher quality. The theory of change of article depth is that if more updates are done on a language version, then we can assume that the articles are more up-to-date, and more failures are corrected by the editing community, and thus better articles.

But as the many discussions in the past and current suggest these are all hypothetical theories and we don't really know.

The best way to proof the theory of change is to measure the outcome. As I had already written before, this is not easy. In many cases the organization also has no resource in know-how, man power and money to conduct a measurement or survey. The WikiMedia Foundation and our communities had in the past conducted a score of experiments and methods to measure the quality:

The featured article is doubtless the most successful of these. It is a measurement from the view of our editing community for high quality articles. Across all projects the threshold for featured articles are very high. With the public policy project WikiMedia Foundation began in the last months a test on user feed backs about quality from the reader perception. Although there were some outside evaluations with experts like those conducted by Nature or c't, these evaluations are often of too small a scale and not consistent enough to give us an overall trend over the years and across the language versions, or in more general fields.

So one of our major tasks in the coming years is still to find a way to bridge some gaps of theory of change. And one of the tasks of the board would be to engage our community and outside experts to free their resources and expertise to help us in this endeavor.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vision, Mission, Strategy

In the four days while my stay in the Harvard Business School I often looked back at our vision, mission and strategy. The second day of the course concentrates on how vision and mission decide strategy. As Professor Leonhard put it, the question 0: What is we supposed to do.

Our vision is: Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment.

Our mission is: The mission of the WikiMedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

And our overall strategy to fulfill that mission is: In coordination with a network of chapters and individual volunteers, the Foundation provides the essential infrastructure and an organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects and other endeavors which serve this mission. The Foundation will make and keep useful information from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity.

One of the most appalling think that we experienced in study the cases by HBS is that it shows how easily one lose his mission out of the sight and how difficult it often is to judge if a decision supports the mission. This seems especially easy in time of crisis. And that brings me back again and again to the most difficult discussions at the moment in our movement. The most difficult inside the board, between the board and the community, and inside the community: The controversial content discussion.

We have here two radical position that in my opinion reflects two aspects of our mission:

*The freedom of speech, the not censoring of project content according to whatever criteria as long as we move inside the frame of law reflects the aspect in our mission and vision, that we want to share the sum of ALL educational knowledge. And the sum of all knowledge certainly includes also those that are controversial.

*On the other hand, if part of the knowledge we are providing is so upset for part of the people around the world, so that they feel our projects as insulting and refuses to share their knowledge on our projects or share the knowledge that is collected on our projects, than we certainly failed to fulfill this aspect of our mission.

The call of boycott on the Aceh Wikipedia against the rest of our projects shows in a radical and confusing way how emotional and sometimes irrational this conflict even can evolve inside of our own community.

To me the duty of the board is to find out a way so that all aspects of our mission can be fulfilled, in engaged discussion with the community. Because it is a mission matter, it is a board issue, and because it is a mission matter, it is important. The lessons I learned by studying the cases is, it is all too easy to lost our mission, because of our personal view, because of the emotion that is involved in the discussion, because it relates to value and is a complicated topic. All this is for me even more reason to keep our mission in our mind when we are working through this topic. And again

Our vision is: Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment.

Our mission is: The mission of the WikiMedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Leadership is ...

German version
Chinese version

... the process of bringing a new, and generally unwelcome reality to an organization, group or society and helping her/him/it/them successfully adapt to it."

Thus was it written on the blackboard in the classroom. I was attending a 4-day-course at the Harvard Business School with the name "Governing for Nonprofit Excellence".

While I was preparing for the course and reading through the cases my doubt and unease increased slowly. Would this be the right investment the Wikimedia Foundation is making? Would we and I as the current board chair really get any benefit from this course?

The cases are all very interesting, but they seem all so far away from us, I agree, a very unique organization. So what can I learn from a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, searching for a merge partner?

A lot.

The story is about a non-profit organization, that had until now lived in a very comfortable zone, and that means,
- serving the value it is supposed to provide,
- has support from its community
- has resources for its operation,
and is now facing a changing environment which moves it out of this comfortable zone, erupting its support base. The story is about a board that recognized this danger and must make an uncomfortable decision and lead its organization to move on.

It strikes me how similar this sounds to us.

As a high-tech based organization, we are living in a fast changing world. A lot of things change around and inside of us:
- almost all governments, western free ones as more restrictive ones, are changing their laissez faire politic to the Internet and imposing more rigid policies for the web.
- the perception of the public on our projects, especially Wikipedia, is changing. We are no more that freaky Internet site five years ago, but one of the most important information source of the world. And that changes our responsibility to the public.
- our content changed, comparing the most early version of the article Boston with its state of the art there is a tremendous difference. And that means we raised our bar for new participants tremendously. And that changes slowly the composition of our very own community. It changes how we work and how we debate.
- the web technique changed in the past ten years since Wikipedia started. Its landscape changed dramatically during the ten years. Who is a veteran and had his own (first?) website on Geocities?

A lot of things that the Foundation and its board did in the last years has to do with these changes. The BLP resolution is a direct response to our changing responsibility to the general public as well as to the affected person. The usability project is a direct response to the changing technology. The change of our licensing model is also related to public perception and demand, because the pure GFDL is awesome for the use for printings. The strategic planning engages all the challenges we are facing. And the ongoing controversial content discussion is a result of our strategic planning (development and adaption in the nonwestern cultures) and the response of the changes in public policy and in our responsibility.

Non of these changes are uncontroversial and non of the discussions is unpainful. But if we want to fulfill our mission there is no other way as to move on.

What is interesting about the HBS course for me, is that by analyzing the cases I unavoidably come back again and again to our own situation. By looking at the others as an uninvolved observer it makes me more clearer to our own cases. And it provides me some guidance by providing frameworks or algorithms to analyze the situation more calmly and systematically.

Führung ist ...
... das Prozess, eine neue, allgemein unwillkommene Realität einer Organisation, Gruppe oder Gesellschaft kundzutun und sie/ihn/es/ihnen helfen, sich erfolgreich daran anzupassen."

So stand es auf dem Schwarzen Brett im Klassenraum. Ich nahm gerade an einem viertägigen Kurs an der Harvard Business School mit dem Namen "Governing for Nonprofit Excellence" teil.

Als ich das Kurs vorbereitete und die Fallstudien las, wuchs in mir den Zweifel, ob die Investition der WikiMedia Foundation diesmal wirklich so sinnvoll ist. Wird die Organisation und ich als der momentane Boardvorsitzender wirklich von diesem Kurs profitieren?

Die Fallstudien sind alle sehr interessant, aber sie scheinen alle so weit von uns weg zu sein. Ich gebe zu, wir sind eine sehr ungewöhnliche Organisation. Was kann ich also von einem Krankenhaus in Cambridge, Massachusetts lernen, der gerade eine Fusionspartner sucht?


Es ist die Geschichte einer Nonprofitorganisation, die bis dahin in eine sehr komfortable Zone gelebt hatte. Das bedeutet,
- dass es die Werte seiner Community bringt, für die sie gedacht wurde
- Unterstützung von seiner Community erhält
- Resourcen für seine Operation besitzt.
Angesichts der sich ändernden Umwelt droht sie aus ihre Komfortzone herauszurutschen. Die Basis seiner Unterstützung eruptiert. Die Geschichte ist über einem Board, das diesen Gefahr erkennt und unangenehme Entscheidung machen musste und seine Organisation weiterführt.

Es ist erstaunlich wie ähnlich dies zu unsere Situation klingt.

Als eine High-Tech basierende Organisation leben wir in eine sich schnell ändernden Umwelt. Viele Sachen ändern sich um uns herum und in uns hinein:
- fast alle Regierungen, die westlich freiheitliche wie die restriktiven, ändern ihren Laissez-faire-Politik gegenüber dem Internet und führen immer restriktiveren Regeln für das Netz ein.
- die Sicht der Nutzer zu unseren Projekten, besonders zu Wikipedia, ändern sich. Wir sind nicht mehr das Kuriosum im Internet von vor fünf Jahren, sondern ein der wichtigsten Informationsquelle der Welt. Und das ändert unsere Verantwortung zu unseren User.
- Unsere Inhalten ändern sich. Vergleicht man den Inhalt der ersten Version zu Boston mit seinem aktuellen Inhalt sieht man den riesigen Unterschied. Das bedeutet, dass wir die Anfangshürde für Anfänger erheblich angehoben haben. Diese Änderung ändert langsam die Zusammensetzung unserer eigenen Community, sie ändert auch wie wir arbeiten und wie Diskussionen geführt werden.
- Die Webtechnologie hat sich in den letzten zehn Jahren seit dem Start der Wikipedia geändert. Ihre Landschaft hat sich in den zehn Jahren dramatisch verändert. Gibt es hier Veteranen, die ihren (ersten?) Webseiten auf Geocities gebastelt haben?

Viele Sachen, die die Foundation und ihr Board in den letzten Jahren getan haben, haben mit diesen Änderungen zu tun. Die BLP-Resolution ist eine direkte Antwort auf die Änderung unserer Verantwortung zum allgemeinen Publikum wie auch zu den betroffenen Personen. Die Änderung unseres Lizenzmodells ist ebenfalls in Zusammenhang zur Publikumssicht und -anforderung zu sein, weil die reine GFDL für gedruckten Büchern einfach zu unpraktikabel ist. Mit der Strategischen Planung versuchen wir, eine Strategie gegen alle Herausforderungen zu entwickeln, die uns begegnen. Und das andauernde Diskussion zu umstrittenen Inhalten ist ein Ergebnis unserer Strategischen Planung (Entwicklung und Adaption in den nichtwestlichen Kulturen) und eine Antwort auf sich ändernden Politik und unserer Verantwortung.

Keine diese Änderungen sind nicht unumstritten und keine der Diskussionen schmerzlos. Aber um unsere Mission zu erfüllen gibt es keinen Weg vorbei.

Was für mich besonders interessant zum HBS Kurs ist, dass beim Analysieren der Fällen ich unvermeidbar immer wieder und wieder zu unsere Situation zurückkehre. Beim Studieren der anderen als ein unbeteiligter Beobachter wird es mir klarer zu unserem eigenen Fall. Und das Kurs liefert mir einigen Frameworks oder Algorithmen, um Situationen systematischer und mit einem kühleren Kopf zu analysieren.













Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wer in Wikipedia hat die Wahrheit gepachtet

English version

(Wie immer äußere ich meine persönliche Meinung auf meinem Blog)

In der neuesten Ausgabe der Zeitschrift Der Spiegel wird ein Artikel über das „Hinterzimmer“ der Wikipedia veröffentlicht. Der Artikel beschreibt anhand des Beispiels des Streits, ob der Wiener Donauturm ein Fernsehturm ist, den oft erbitterten und unzivilisierten Kampf innerhalb der Wikipedia Community. Folgenden Aussagen sind in dem Artikel gefallen: „Wikipedia ist kein Projekt vieler, sondern ein Projekt weniger“, „Wer in Wikipedia die Wahrheit gepachtet hat, ist eine wichtige Frage“, „Der Soziologe Stegbauer kommt in seiner Studie zum Ergebnis, dass sich die Führungsschicht der Wikipedia immer stärker abschotte und neuen Teilnehmer den Zugang erschwere“, „Es gibt viele Grundsatzdebatte heute, zum Beispiel über die Frage nach der Relevanz“. Der Artikel zitiert Henriette: „Heute brauchst Du drei Tage, um alle Regeln zu lesen. Die Ansprüche an Artikel sind gestiegen, es herrscht Fußnotenpflicht. Viele Themen sind bereits weg. Es gibt Relevanzkriterien, die bestimmen, worüber man überhaupt noch schreiben darf“ und Elian: „Es ist der Umgangston in Wikipedia, der ihr nicht gefällt“ und „für Leser, die Informationen suchten, funktioniere Wikipedia noch sehr gut, menschlich aber nicht mehr so“. In Bezug auf NPOV schrieb der Autor „In der Realität haben die meisten Artikel nur wenige Hauptautoren, die ihre Werke oft adoptieren und gegen Änderungen anderer Nutzer verteidigen“.

Letztes Jahr im Zusammenhang mit der Strategischen Planung leitete die Wikimedia Foundation inc. eine „Former Contributors Survey“ unter den ehemaligen englischen Wikipedianer ein, die mittlerweile aufgehört haben, an dem Projekt mitzuarbeiten. Von den 10.000 ehemaligen Benutzer, an denen die Umfrageformular verschickt wurde, meldeten 1428 zurück und schilderten ihren Beweggründen, warum sie Wikipedia den Rücken zugekehrt haben. Außer technischen Schwierigkeiten wird Löschung oder Rückgängigmachen der Edits als der zweithäufigste Grund genannt.

Das Problem ist also kein deutsches, wie man oft denkt. Es ist ein globales, es ist ebenfalls ein Problem in der englischen Wikipedia genau so wie in der Spanischen oder Chinesischen. Nicht nur sind die Bereichen besetzt, wie Henriette sagt, sondern auch die Positionen und Ideologien. Die momentane Wikipedia Community ist erheblich konservativ geworden.

Dabei hatte Wikipedia als eine Innovation angefangen, und ein seiner fünf Grundprinzipien ist „Be Bold / Ignore all Rules“. Aus mir unverständlichem Grund ist gerade dieses Grundprinzip, ein der fünf Gleichwertigen, aus den Grundprinzipien bei der deutschen Wikipedia rausgefallen und nur noch als Referenz unter dem Abschnitt „Siehe auch“ aufgeführt.

Seid Mutig ist nicht ohne Grund ein Grundprinzip der Wikipedia. Er ist der Startpunkt von Wikipedia. Nupedia wurde zu Wikipedia, weil Jimmy Wales Mutig war, das Privileg, eine Enzyklopädie zu schreiben, allen Menschen zu öffnen. Wikipedia wurde so groß, weil ein Benuter Mutig war zu schreiben „Die Nordsee ist ein Mehr, ein teil der Atlant, zwischen Grossbritannien, Skandinavien und Friesland“, ohne Referenz, Fußnote und ohne Berücksichtigung auf Relevanzkriterien, mit vielen Schreibfehler, und weil viele Benutzer diesen mutigen Schritt folgten.

Ist dieses Grundprinzip, Seid Mutig/Ignoriere allen Regeln, heute noch aktuell? Ja, es ist, und angesichts des versiegenden Neuzugangs um so dringlicher und wichtiger. Es verpflichtet allen Wikipedianer, den Mut jedes neuen Benutzers anzuerkennen und ihn bei seinen mutigen ersten Schritten zu unterstützen und Hilfe anzubieten. Es missbilligt jeden Tat, der einen Neuling in seinen unsicheren Anfangsversuche aus dem Projekt zu drängen. Es verpflichtet jeden Wikipedianer, allen Regeln immer wieder auf ihre Nützlichkeit zu überprüfen und eventuell zu korrigieren. Es missbilligt allen Versuchen, den Regeln als Heiligen Schriften zu behandeln und gegen jede Neuerung zu wehren. Es ist der Anfang unseres Projektes und ist, wie allen anderen vier Grundprinzipien, ein Garant dafür, dass unser Projekt ein gesundes Projekt bleibt und dass seine Community frisch bleibt und gedeiht.

Elian hat vollkommen recht, wer Neulinge, aber auch jeden anderen Community Mitglieder konstant unfreundlich und abweisend behandelt, ist ein Vandale. Er randaliert nicht gegen den Inhalt unseres Projektes, aber er randaliert gegen die Community. Er ist genau so zerstörerisch gegen unserem Projekt und gehört genau so wenig in unserem Community wie jemand, der die Inhalte mutwillig zerstört. Eigentlich viel schlimmer. Vandalismus gegen Inhalte können relativ schnell rückgängig gemacht werden. Zerstörte kollegiale Atmosphäre oder vergrätzte Gefühle sind, wenn überhaupt, nur sehr schwer zu reparieren.

Vor ziemlich genau fünf Jahren, auf dem ersten Wikimania Konferenz, hier in Deutschland im Haus der Jugend in Frankfurt am Main, rief Jimmy Wales die Community auf, Anstrengungen zu leisen, Qualität und Zuverlässigkeit von Wikipedia zu heben. Das war der Anfang einer Entwicklung, die dazu führte, dass heute Referenzen und Fußnoten in Artikel Pflicht wurde. Damals stand die Frage im Raum: Wie zuverlässig ist Wikipedia? Zu Wikimania brachte ZDF eine Sendung über Wikipedia, in der auch der Chefredakteur von Brockhaus zu Wort kam, der genau diese Frage stellte. Die Frage ist heute wie damals aktuell. Und sie steht mit der Offenheit des Projektes gewiss in Konflikt.

Dieser Konflikt zu lösen ist die Beständige Aufgabe unserer Community: Die Qualität von Wikipedia zu halten und zu verbessern, gleichzeitig offen für neue Community Mitglieder und für Erneuerung zu sein.

Bei vielen Regeln, die mit der Qualität der Wikipedia zu tun hat, wird auf einem anderen Grundprinzip hingewiesen: Wikipedia ist eine Enzyklopädie. Zum Beispiel die stark umstrittene Relevanzkriterien verweist auf den folgenden Satz: „Nur für Personen und Institutionen von enzyklopädischer Bedeutung sollten Artikel angelegt werden.“ Bei den Relevanzkriterien geht es also darum, was von enzyklopädischer Bedeutung ist. Laut Wikipedia ist eine Enzyklopädie eine durch Allgemeinwissenschaft nach Definition von Diderot und d'Alambert erfolgte Darstellung der Gesamtheit des Wissens. Was bedeutend genug ist, um zur Gesamtheit des Wissens zu gehören, gibt es gewiss nur subjektive Meinungen, und keine Definitionen. Für mich als IT Specialist gehört Entwurfsmuster gewiss zum alltäglichen Arbeitswerkzeug und deswegen sehr bedeutend, während sie für meinen Freund Kien, der ein Gärtner ist, gar nichts bedeutet, dafür kennt er mehreren zehn Kameliensorten und kann sie oft allein anhand ihres Blattwerks unterscheiden. In der deutschen Wikipedia wird oft an Brockhaus orientiert, wenn es um enzyklopädische Bedeutung geht. Dabei hat Wikipedia Brockhaus in Anzahl der Artikeln, der Wörtern, der Leser und der Nutzung längst hinter sich gelassen. Allein die Tatsache, dass Wikipedia täglich wahrscheinlich öfter benutzt wird als Brockhaus in seine gesamte Geschichte, ja, sogar von meinem Gärtnerfreund, zeigt, dass für Wikipedia die Bedeutung der Gesamtheit des Wissens anders definiert werden muss, als ein Werk, das sich hauptsächlich an Akademiker, Bibliotheken und wohlhabenden Liebhaber orientiert. Die Orientierung an Brockhaus ist also eindeutig rückwärtsorientiert und der Zeit und der Bedeutung von Wikipedia nicht mehr angemessen. Es ist eine selbst auferlegte Einschränkung, die das Projekt sich selbst eine Grenze setzt und eine Community Online-Enzyklopädie nicht gerecht wird.

Anhand der Definition von Enzyklopädie sieht man auch, dass es so etwas wie DIE Wahrheit nicht gibt, wie Henriette in ihrem Interview gesagt hat. Es gibt höchstens unterschiedlichen Wahrnehmungen und Meinungen. Das ist es, warum NPOV so wichtig in Wikipedia ist. In Wikipedia geht es nicht darum, was wahr ist. Was wahr ist, liegt oft außerhalb des Erkenntnishorizonts der einzelnen, oft auch außerhalb des Erkenntnishorizonts der Community. In Wikipedia geht es darum das Sein zu beschreiben. Wenn es zu eine Sache unterschiedlichen Meinungen gibt, dann ist nicht die eine wahr und die andere unwahr, sondern der Istzustand ist, dass es unterschiedlichen Meinungen gibt. Jemand, der glaubt, die Wahrheit zu vertreten und diese mit Inbrunst oder sogar mit unerlaubten Mitteln (Sockenpuppen) oder Unfreundlichkeit und Beleidigungen anderen Community Mitglieder gegenübertritt, ist kein Wikipedianer, sondern ein Fanatiker und Fundamentalist. Er gehört nicht zur Community, hat das Prinzip der NPOV nicht verstanden, und hat in Wikipedia nichts zu suchen.

Da es keine Die Wahrheit gibt, kann keiner sie pachten, besonders nicht in Wikipedia. Was bleibt, ist Respekt: Respekt für anderen Personen und Respekt vor unterschiedlichen Ansichten. Das soll In Wikipedia sein, besonders in seinem Hinterzimmer.

Who owns the truth in Wikipedia

(As always in my blog I express my personal opinion)

In the recent issue of the magazine “Der Spiegel” is an article about the “backrooms” of Wikipedia. The article describes with the example of the debate about if the Donauturm in Vienna is a TV tower how uncivilized and desperate such battles are fought inside of Wikipedia community. The article used following phrases: “Wikipedia is not a project of many, but a project of few”, “Who hold the truth in Wikipedia is an important question”, “The sociologist Stegbauer came to the result in his study that the leadership of Wikipedia more and more closes the door and makes new comers more and more difficult to get in”, “There are a lot of debates on principles, for example about the question of notability”. It cites Henriette from WMDE: “Today you need three days to read all the rules. The bar for quality had raised, references are a must. A lot of topics are already occupied. There are notability criteria that decides about what one can write at all”, and it cites Elian, a de-wiki editor: “She don't like how people treat each other on Wikipedia” and “for users who search for information Wikipedia still works very well, but between the humans no more.” In respect of NPOV the author wrote: “In the reality most articles are written by a few main contributors who keep the articles as their own and defend any changes by other users.”

Last year within the Strategic Plan the Wikimedia Foundation conducted a “Former Contributors Survey”. Questionnaires are sent to 10,000 editors who had stopped their engagement on Wikipedia. 1428 sent their answer back and told us the reason of their depart. Beside difficulties with the technique of the software the second largest reason was deletion or revert of their edits.

The problem is not a German one, as one often thinks. It is a global problem, it is also a problem in the English Wikipedia or in Spanish or Chinese one. Not only are many topics occupied like Henriette said, but also positions and ideologies. The actual Wikipedia community is getting quite conservative.

It is sad because Wikipedia started as an innovation. One of its five pillars is “Be bold / Ignore all Rules”. I don't know why exactly this pillar was removed from the German Wikipedia and only listed in the “See also” section of the pillars.

Be Bold is not without reason one of the pillars of Wikipedia. It is the begin of Wikipedia. Nupedia became Wikipedia because Jimmy Wales was Bold to open the privilege of writing an encyclopedia to all people. Wikipedia is today so big because a user was Bold to write “Die Nordsee ist ein Mehr, ein teil der Atlant, zwischen Grossbritannien, Skandinavien und Friesland” (The North See is a see, part of the Atlant, between Greatbrittian, Scandinavia and Frisia), without references, footnote and check against notability criteria, with quite some spell errors for a single sentence, and because a lot of editors are Bold enough to follow him.

Is this pillar still up to date now? Yes it is. Especially in the light of declining number of new comers is it even more important. It urges every Wikipedian to respect the Boldness of the new comers and to give them helps and guides during their first bold steps in Wikipedia. It condemns every deed that pushs a new comer out of the project in their testing beginning. It urges every Wikipedian to check again and again if a rule is still up to date and apt correctly for the situation. It condemns every try to handle the rules as a holy book and to oppose every renewal. It is the begin of our project and is, like the other four pillars, the guarantee that our project remains healthy, that our community keeps its dynamic and growth.

Elian is totally right. Someone who is constantly aggressive against new comers or other community members is a vandal. He doesn't vandalize against the content of our projects, but he is vandalizing against the community. He is as devastating as someone who deteriorates the content of articles. Actually he is even worse. Vandalism against content can be reversed easily, but destroyed collaboration or injured feeling can only be repaired, if at all, slowly.

Quite exactly five years ago on the first Wikimania conference in the Haus der Jugend in Frankfurt am Main, Germany Jimmy Wales calls the community to strengthen its endeavor to improve the quality and reliability of Wikipedia. This was the begin of the development which leads to the rules that today an article must have references and footnotes. At that time we are often asked: How reliable is Wikipedia? During Wikimania ZDF broadcasted a report about Wikipedia, in which the chief editor of Brockhaus exactly raised this question. The question is up to date today like back at that time. And it does pose some conflict with the openness of the project.

This is a constant challenge for our community: To keep and improve the quality of Wikipedia and at the same time to open it for new members and for renewals.

A lot of rules related to quality in Wikipedia refers to one of the other pillars: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. In German Wikipedia for example the strongly battled notability criteria refers to the following sentence: “Only person and institutions that is important for an encyclopedia can have an article.” So the notability criteria results in the question, what is important enough for an encyclopedia. According to Wikipedia an encyclopedia is a type of reference work, a compendium holding information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge. But what is important enough to be counted as knowledge is quite subjective, there is no definition for it. For me as an IT specialist design patterns are surely very important, it is my daily tool. But for my boyfriend Kien, a gardener, it has no meaning at all. But he knows a few dozen of camellia and can often distinct them alone by their leaves. In German Wikipedia Brockhaus is often used as a reference when trying to answer the question if something is of value of human knowledge. Meanwhile Wikipedia exceeded Brockhaus in the count of articles, words, readers and editors by far. The fact, that the number of users on Wikipedia everyday is maybe more than Brockhaus in its entire history, that even my gardener boyfriend uses Wikipedia, is evident enough that the definition of knowledge for Wikipedia cannot be the same as for an encyclopedia which is mostly targeted to academics, libraries and rich buyers. Take Brockhaus as standard for definition of knowledge is definitively backward oriented. It is out dated and doesn't fit the scale of Wikipedia. It is an unnecessary limit set to the project that constraints the possibility of a community created online encyclopedia.

By the definition of encyclopedia one can also see that there is no THE truth, like Henriette said in her interview. There are different views and opinions. This is why NPOV is so important for Wikipedia. The purpose of Wikipedia is not to decide what is the truth. What is the truth is often beyond the horizon of a person, or even of the community. In Wikipedia we describe the being. If there are different opinions, then there is no one true and the others false. The is-status in this case is there are different opinions. A person who thinks he knows what the truth is and defends his self declared truth with vigor or even illegal methods like sock puppet or aggression or even insult against other community members is not a Wikipedian, but a fanatic and fundamentalist. He doesn't belong to the community, he has no understanding for NPOV and has nothing to do in Wikipedia.

Since there is no THE truth no one can own the truth, especially not in Wikipedia. What remains is respect: Respect for other person and respect for other opinions. This should be In Wikipedia, especially in its backrooms.







勇于参与是维基百科的支柱之一不是没有原因的。它是维基百科的开始。吉米·威尔士勇于让所有的人都享受写百科全书的权利,这是维基百科的开始。维基百科成为今天的样子,因为九年多前有用户勇于写上“Die Nordsee ist ein Mehr, ein teil der Atlant, zwischen Grossbritannien, Skandinavien und Friesland”(北海是一座还,是大西的一部分,位于大不列殿、斯堪的纳维亚和弗里士兰之间),没有任何注释,没有任何参考资料,没有考虑文章是否符合知名度,带着许多笔误,以及因为后来有许多其他用户勇于追随他的榜样。





许多与维基百科的质量有关的规则来于另一个支柱:维基百科是一部百科全书。比如争议最激烈的知名度规则在德语百科中直接引述以下这句话:“只有符合百科全书重要性的人物和机构才能有自己的文章。”按照维基百科百科全书是对人类过去积累的全部知识或某一类知识的书面摘要。哪些知识重要到值得收录入人类积累的全部知识只有主观的意见,没有定论。比如作为一名IT Specialist对于我来说设计模式是我每天都要使用的工具,是非常重要的,但是对于我的花匠男朋友志坚来说它一点意义也没有。但是他认识几十种茶花,而且往往能够仅仅通过它们的叶子区别它们。在德语维基百科中布罗克豪斯往往被用来作为区别一篇文章的内容是否值得收录的参照。但是在此期间德语维基百科的条目数目、字数、编辑者数目、使用者数目均远远超过了布罗克豪斯。每天使用德语维基百科的人数可能超过布罗克豪斯在其整个历史上的使用人数,即使我的花匠朋友也会查询维基百科。这一切说明一部主要写给学者、图书馆和富有市民阶层的百科全书对于知识的定义远远无法满足维基百科的需要了。用布罗克豪斯作为百科全书应该收纳的内容的参照是一种过时的做法。它无义地限制了一部社群创造的、网上百科全书的范围。



Monday, January 18, 2010

My speech on the opening ceremony of the 2. Chinese Wikipedia Conference












Ladies and Gentlemen, dear guests, friends, hello

At first I want to thank the volunteers and friends from Wikimedia Macau and Wikimedia Hongkong for their organization, for their hard work. I know organizing such a meeting is not easy. A lot of unexpected things can happen, a lot of details and things must be done. Despite all these works a lot of people would be unhappy, would criticize the organizers or even suspect them. To keep on and make the meeting happen, make it a good meeting, is a very hard work. Because of this I want to express my very much thanks. Thank you very much for your work.

Wikipedia has five pillars. All our rules, all our work, should be based on these five pillars. All other rules can be changed or outdated, but these five pillars, we can say the constitution of Wikipedia, cannot be changed. I would like to ask if any of the friends here can tell me which five pillars they are?

The five pillars are: Encyclopedia, Neutral Point of View, Free Content, Respect To Each Other and Be Bold.

Wikipedia is an Encyclopedia, this is our first pillar, is the basis of our basis. This pillar defines the scope and goal of our work. But what is an encyclopedia? Which content belong to an encyclopedia, which not? When Wikipedia started no one of us could imaging that it would develop to what it is today. At that time we took the classic encyclopedia, like Britanica, as our example. Back at that time we thought that it would take eons to match the quality and quantity of Britanica. Back then people even listed out which articles Britanica has and we still not have. Today the number of our articles had exceeded by far Britanica. And the number of our users also exceeds by far of all users that had ever used Britanica. We have articles that Britanica doesn't have and would never have, like stations of the Hongkong Underground, or bus lines in Hongkong. Are these content of encyclopedia? According to the definition of classic encyclopedia obviously not. But our community, you, decided that they are. What does that mean? It means that we had expanded the definition of encyclopedia. We created a new definition of encyclopedia, which exceeds the content of the classic encyclopedia.

The second pillar of Wikipedia ist the Neutral Point of View. Wisdom is a human nature. The human being has no sharp claws, no sensitive nose, no wings to fly, no thick hide. But the to explore the world is the nature of the human being. The mankind can very effectively collect knowledge and pass it to their peer. We live in a complicated, multicultural and global world. When we learn, work or in our daily life we must make decisions and choices everyday. We can only make wise decisions if we can have the most thorough information. We need neutral knowledges to make decisions. 40 years ago the Red Guard brought China tremendous destruction. They did it not because they are evil, but because they don't have the knowledge, and the few knowledge that they have are filtered by other people. Because of this they are not able to evaluate the things they destroyed and they cannot evaluate the lives they destroyed. They are not able to select between right and wrong. Our goal is not to tell other people what is right and what is wrong. We don't have the ability and the right for that. If we begin to filter informations as good or bad, we are doing the same wrong thing like those people, who disguised the young people to do the destructions. Our goal is to provide thorough, neutral knowledge, so that our user can decide by themselves what is right and what is wrong. From Shan Hai Jing to the AIDS catastrophe in Henan, from Pythagoras to Harry Potter, in stories, history, literacy or now a day we can always meet people, who feels that some knowledge is too dangerous to be known by all the mankind, so that they must try to seal these knowledge to protect the society. But indeed the history had showed that no knowledge is always more peril than have knowledge, that filtered knowledge always do more harm than thorough transparent knowledge.

Only an open community can ensure that the knowledges we collected is neutral. Everyone of us has his own belief and his partial knowledge, no one knows everything. So the knowledge of a closed society is limited. Open has two meanings for us. Our community is open, and the knowledge we collected is also open. And that means that we have responsibility to our users. A lot of people don't understand why we take so many effort to respect the copyright of other people. We often hear people criticize us: In the Internet everyone copies everyone, why only Wikipedia don't allow this. There are a lot of good reasons why we respect copyright. The most important one is that we want to ensure that everyone can freely use the knowledge we collected. If we don't take care about copyright, our user would take risk if they use the content we collected. Other people can say: the content you collected is indeed not free. This would threat our mission, threat our reputation and threat the value of the knowledge we collected. Beside of this. Unfree knowledge is lightly not neutral, because its owner can decide who may use these knowledges and he can filter the knowledge.

Wiki is a social collaboration tool. When we are editing Wikipedia, we should never forget this. Social collaboration is another human nature. We have all the experience that gaming with friends makes more fun than gaming alone. The very basics of collaboration is mutual respect. Our community had devised deferent rules to encourage the collaboration inside of the community: We have barn stars, welcome template, Welcoming Committee, Contests. We have a lot of rules that are based on this pillar, like don't bite newbies, don't make personal insults, when discussing talk about fact, don't about person. Mutual respect is the glue of our community. Since the advent of Wikipedia a lot of new social content building and collaboration sites emerged, but none of them has such an open community, which is dedicated to a common goal like by Wikipedia. For an open community, which is collaborating to build up a project, the mutual respect of the community member between each other is the most important thing at all. Dear friends, if the discussion is tough, if we have to explain the same rules year after years, we get tired. But please let us never never never forget this most easily forgotten pillar.

Soon Wikipedia would be nine years old. Nine years is a long time on the net. Nine years ago most of the most visited sites didn't exist yet. Some of the sites that were very popular nine years ago are scarcely known today, or vanished. Nine years ago Wikipedia was an innovation. In these nine years we started with nothing and built up an extremely popular encyclopedia with increasing reputation. We defined encyclopedia new on the net, we introduced a new meaning of neutrality, our open collaboration is unchallenged by other sites. We have established a lot of rules to ensure the openness and collaboration on Wikipedia. But we cannot be content with this. We cannot stop with what was achieved. Our rules now are not unchangeable. If there are better means to encourage the collaboration inside of the community, to improve the growth of Wikipedia, we should be bold to discuss and adopt them, just as if Wikipedia is still in the time of its enfancy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear guests, friends. I am very happy and honored to meet you all today in Macau. I hope we can increase our friendship during the conference, can resolve our conflicts in the past, can discuss the future, develop new ideas and give new impulses to Wikipedia.

Thank you very much.