Is Wikipedia Becoming a Totalitarian State?

Seeing as I’m a co-founder of ValueWiki, it’s probably no shocker that I’m a Wikipedian. And say what you will, but I think Wikipedia is one of the greatest accomplishments of the internet. But is Wikipedia becoming totalitarian?

In addition to recent battles with Microsoft, Wikipedia is in the final rounds of stamping out Esperanza. Esperanza is a Wikipedia subculture that evolved to inspire a sense of community among Wikipedians. The group created “coffee lounge” chat pages, mentored new members, compiled birthday calendars, and awarded “Barnstars” to recognize user accomplishments. In a wiki world of vandals and link spammers, Esperanza supported projects like the Kindness Campaign, WikiLove, and the Barnstar awards. They created “Trading Spaces,” where html-savvy users would pimp each other’s bio pages. Through colorful userpages and sig’s, Wikipedia was finally shedding it’s drab communist grey for a more fun and user-friendly feel. And the sense of community and support Esperanza created certainly helped to fuel Wikipedia’s explosive growth.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia admins have decided that Esperanza is non-encyclopedic, and set about snuffing it out the best way they know how – Byzantine beaurocracy! You really have to read this page to believe it. I’m not sure people outside of Wikipedia are aware this is going on. It reminds me of the Chinese government stamping out Falun Gong. What’s the harm in a bunch of people who want to do calisthenics? Or setup birthday calendars on a wiki talkpage?

Alright, I’m a wiki-geek. But it’s a little sad to see neat Wikipedia projects like Wikifun and WikiGames fizzle out. I know of many upset and exhausted Wikipedians who have left. Now users post in the community portal, Is Wikipedia Beginning to Decelerate?

Zach and I are watching and listening. For any Wikipedians who migrate to ValueWiki, we encourage you to start groups, pimp your bio pages, and build a community. Ultimately, we believe a healthy sense of community will build a better wiki.


4 Responses to Is Wikipedia Becoming a Totalitarian State?

  1. Mark Murphy says:

    Off the cuff, it feels like there’s plenty of blame for all sides.

    Wikimedia seems to have difficulty separating Wikipedia-the-encyclopedia from Wikipedia-the-editing-community. Partially, this is their own doing — having things like Talk pages and such right in the encyclopedia simply steers people in the direction of hosting communities inside the ‘pedia. Wikimedia should have created a separate environment with separate tools for community-building, and left the encyclopedia be simply that: an encyclopedia.

    Esperanza had noble goals, but if they did all their community-building inside the ‘pedia, I’m not surprised they were, for lack of a better term, evicted. At the first sign of trouble, Esperanza could have moved their community-building activities to a separate host and limited their work in the ‘pedia to be actual article-editing.

  2. Jon says:

    That’s a fair point, Mark. I wonder if something like this will evolve, now that people are absorbing the Esperanza lesson.

  3. […] Wikipedia promotes peace rather than fighting war. Wikipedia inventions like WikiLove, WikiHalos, Esperanza, and the Welcoming Committee, are all positive ways to promote civility. Wikipedia always assumes […]

  4. Nice blog, i have added it to my favourites, greetings

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