[Wikimedia-l] Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)

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[Wikimedia-l] Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)

Carmen-21
[This essay was rudely rejected by the gatekeepers at Signpost calling it irrelevant but not explaining why. Could someone please suggest where I might submit this for a fair hearing by the WMF community?]

Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)
By Carmen Yarrusso

Carmen Yarrusso, a software engineer for 35 years, designed and modified computer operating systems (including Internet software). He has a BS in physics and studied game theory and formal logic during his years with the math department at Brookhaven National Lab. He lives in New Hampshire and often writes about uncomfortable truths.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Nobody can deny WMF has done a great service to humanity. Wikimedians and especially Wikipedians around the world deserve our utmost respect and gratitude for their outstanding efforts. But there's a political zeitgeist in the air that began with the Arab Spring that WMF can and should be part of.

The WMF should stop pretending it's politically neutral (NPOV). The declared philosophy of the movement (see Movement roles/charter) expresses a clear political POV. There's lots of implied politics in trying to "imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge."

WMF was part of an amicus brief in the past. There's been chapter and community political activism, including the recent Italian Wikipedia shutdown. The recent Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) forced WMF to take a clear political stance. WMF even helped organize an Internet Censorship Day: http://americancensorship.org/ , urging people to lobby Congress and petition the US state department against SOPA. That's political POV!

But expressing POV on Internet censorship or expressing a commitment to free access to knowledge, transparency, openness, independence, quality, and privacy is fundamentally different than expressing POV in an encyclopedia article. The very essence of political knowledge is understanding and critically evaluating conflicting POV.

Considering the present state and direction of our world, which is largely controlled by politics, isn't it time for "the world's largest free knowledge resource" to openly acknowledge that free political knowledge is at least as important to humanity as free encyclopedic knowledge? Isn't reliable knowledge about what our respective governments are doing in our names at least as important to our well being as reliable knowledge about the Brooklyn Bridge or the French Revolution? Encyclopedic knowledge becomes rather moot if we destroy our planet earth.

Currently there's no comprehensive source of reliable political knowledge. Deceptive 30-second political ads on TV are certainly not a source of reliable political knowledge. Blathering TV pundits are not a source of reliable political knowledge. Even our mainstream media are not a source of reliable political knowledge. On the contrary, they often provide specious propaganda disguised as reliable political knowledge because their revenue is deeply dependent on special interest money. Though the Internet provides many sources of reliable political knowledge, it's spread out (hit or miss) and very difficult to assemble into a coherent body of knowledge on any given political issue.

Thanks to WMF and the power of the Internet, countless millions of people around the world have access to a free source of vast, reliable encyclopedic knowledge. But these same countless millions have no source of reliable political knowledge, the kind of knowledge they need to critically evaluate the policies and actions of their government representatives. Why not? You Wikipedians have the power to change the downward spiral of the planet and to radically change the course of history by providing a free source of reliable political knowledge.

By trying to maintain a staunch NPOV policy with no exceptions, the WMF has been throwing out the baby with the bath water. The WMF already has the infrastructure and the vast resources needed to provide the world with a free source of reliable political knowledge if it could get over this misplaced NPOV mindset and realize that political knowledge can be provided in a neutral manner where the WMF facilitates (necessarily POV) political knowledge without imposing its own political POV.

How a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia) might work
This idea is described in more detail under Proposals for new projects (see WikiArguments: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/WikiArguments). Here are the basics of how a political knowledge "Wikipedia" would work as opposed to the present encyclopedic knowledge Wikipedia:

For articles in the encyclopedic Wikipedia, NPOV makes perfect sense. But for articles in a political Wikipedia, POV is the essence of an article. Also, the basic standards for articles in a political Wikipedia would be very different because of the POV nature of the articles.

For example, in the encyclopedic Wikipedia, there's one article called Brooklyn Bridge. It should not be arbitrary or subjective or contain original research, etc. Essentially anyone in the world could edit this article. But in a political Wikipedia, there would be four (POV) articles for each subject: one pro and one con POV article that only select government representatives could edit, and one pro and one con POV article that virtually anyone in the world could edit.

As a fictional example, let's suppose some members of Congress propose legislation to build a new Brooklyn Bridge. Under the subject: HR 999 Proposal to build a new Brooklyn Bridge, there would be one pro and one con argument edited only by members of Congress and one pro and one con argument edited by the general public.

What makes POV articles in a political Wikipedia fundamentally different from typical POV articles (e.g. op-eds) on the Internet or mainstream media is this: they would be created dynamically in the same manner as articles in Wikipedia, by an evolving consensus of interested people (with a complete history of revisions), which tends to produce a more reliable, higher quality article.

WMF's stated goals and its Strategic Plan practically beg for a political "Wikipedia"
The introduction to WMF's annual report states: "All of the Foundation's technology initiatives can be boiled down to one goal - reducing the barriers to sharing knowledge."

The barriers to sharing political knowledge are orders of magnitude greater than the barriers to sharing practically any other type of knowledge. In fact governments around the world purposely make it very difficult for the people to even obtain reliable political knowledge, much less share it, because hiding such knowledge benefits the special interests that hold sway over these governments. A political Wikipedia would greatly reduce these barriers, make it easy to share political knowledge, and thereby expose political deception and corruption.

From WMF's Strategic Plan: "Access to information empowers people to make rational decisions about their lives. We believe the ability to access information freely and without restrictions is a basic human right."

Wouldn't reliable political information empower people to make rational decisions about their lives at least as much as reliable information about the Brooklyn Bridge or the French Revolution? Wouldn't clearly-written pro and con arguments presented by our government representatives to explain and justify their positions empower people to make rational decisions about their lives at least as much as clearly-written encyclopedia articles? Wouldn't information about what our government is doing behind our backs be at least as much of a "basic human right" as information about the Brooklyn Bridge or the French Revolution?

From WMF's Strategic Plan: "We know that no one is free from bias. But we believe that mass collaboration among a diverse set of contributors, combined with consensus building around controversial topics, are powerful tools for achieving our goals."

The very same powerful tools could be used by a political Wikipedia to produce reliable, high quality political knowledge just as Wikipedia tends to produce reliable, high quality encyclopedic knowledge. You Wikipedians have developed an extremely powerful political tool that could revolutionize world politics and government, but you're using it only for encyclopedic knowledge.

If you build it they will come
The sheer clout of WMF would practically force government representatives to participate. Honest representatives would welcome such a respected and prominent place to explain and justify their positions. Dishonest representatives would be motivated too because refusing to clearly explain and justify a position is obviously intellectually dishonest and they'd pay for it politically. As Thomas Paine said, "It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry."

The time is ripe for Wikipedians to join the emerging worldwide freedom movement in a leadership role by promoting the full use and power of the Wikipedia concept to provide free political knowledge to the world. Time is not on our side.

Addendum
For more details please see: WikiArguments: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/WikiArguments.
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)

Thomas Morton
>
> As a fictional example, let's suppose some members of Congress propose
> legislation to build a new Brooklyn Bridge. Under the subject: HR 999
> Proposal to build a new Brooklyn Bridge, there would be one pro and one con
> argument edited only by members of Congress and one pro and one con
> argument edited by the general public.


Why would political knowledge need to presented with a POV? That merely
encourages confirmation bias.

Dividing viewpoints into two different strands doesn't sound much like
informing, it sounds rather a lot like providing a platform for soapboxing
:)

Tom
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)

Richard Symonds-3
In reply to this post by Carmen-21
As I understand it, part of the problem is that there are very strict rules
on what the WMF can do as part of lobbying in the US.  Under Section
501(c)(3), nonprofits are not allowed to use a "substantial" part of their
spending on lobbying - meaning no more than 5% of the WMF's income can be
spent on political lobbying. I'm not sure if this would fall under
political lobbying, but it's rather close! It's also already done rather
well by people like http://www.factcheck.org/.

Let's not forget, as well, that what you're suggesting is very US-centric.
Not all arguments are yes/no - well, technically all votes are, but there
are also abstentions, and there are those who vote because it's the party
line. There's also a few parts of the world where democracy is not
considered a good system - this project wouldn't really help them.

Richard Symonds
Wikimedia UK
0207 065 0992
Disclaimer viewable at
http://uk.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia:Email_disclaimer
Visit http://www.wikimedia.org.uk/ and @wikimediauk



On 3 May 2012 15:00, Carmen <[hidden email]> wrote:

> [This essay was rudely rejected by the gatekeepers at Signpost calling it
> irrelevant but not explaining why. Could someone please suggest where I
> might submit this for a fair hearing by the WMF community?]
>
> Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by
> establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on
> Wikipedia)
> By Carmen Yarrusso
>
> Carmen Yarrusso, a software engineer for 35 years, designed and modified
> computer operating systems (including Internet software). He has a BS in
> physics and studied game theory and formal logic during his years with the
> math department at Brookhaven National Lab. He lives in New Hampshire and
> often writes about uncomfortable truths.
>
>
>
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Nobody can deny WMF has done a great service to humanity. Wikimedians and
> especially Wikipedians around the world deserve our utmost respect and
> gratitude for their outstanding efforts. But there's a political zeitgeist
> in the air that began with the Arab Spring that WMF can and should be part
> of.
>
> The WMF should stop pretending it's politically neutral (NPOV). The
> declared philosophy of the movement (see Movement roles/charter) expresses
> a clear political POV. There's lots of implied politics in trying to
> "imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the
> sum of all knowledge."
>
> WMF was part of an amicus brief in the past. There's been chapter and
> community political activism, including the recent Italian Wikipedia
> shutdown. The recent Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) forced WMF to take a
> clear political stance. WMF even helped organize an Internet Censorship
> Day: http://americancensorship.org/ , urging people to lobby Congress and
> petition the US state department against SOPA. That's political POV!
>
> But expressing POV on Internet censorship or expressing a commitment to
> free access to knowledge, transparency, openness, independence, quality,
> and privacy is fundamentally different than expressing POV in an
> encyclopedia article. The very essence of political knowledge is
> understanding and critically evaluating conflicting POV.
>
> Considering the present state and direction of our world, which is largely
> controlled by politics, isn't it time for "the world's largest free
> knowledge resource" to openly acknowledge that free political knowledge is
> at least as important to humanity as free encyclopedic knowledge? Isn't
> reliable knowledge about what our respective governments are doing in our
> names at least as important to our well being as reliable knowledge about
> the Brooklyn Bridge or the French Revolution? Encyclopedic knowledge
> becomes rather moot if we destroy our planet earth.
>
> Currently there's no comprehensive source of reliable political knowledge.
> Deceptive 30-second political ads on TV are certainly not a source of
> reliable political knowledge. Blathering TV pundits are not a source of
> reliable political knowledge. Even our mainstream media are not a source of
> reliable political knowledge. On the contrary, they often provide specious
> propaganda disguised as reliable political knowledge because their revenue
> is deeply dependent on special interest money. Though the Internet provides
> many sources of reliable political knowledge, it's spread out (hit or miss)
> and very difficult to assemble into a coherent body of knowledge on any
> given political issue.
>
> Thanks to WMF and the power of the Internet, countless millions of people
> around the world have access to a free source of vast, reliable
> encyclopedic knowledge. But these same countless millions have no source of
> reliable political knowledge, the kind of knowledge they need to critically
> evaluate the policies and actions of their government representatives. Why
> not? You Wikipedians have the power to change the downward spiral of the
> planet and to radically change the course of history by providing a free
> source of reliable political knowledge.
>
> By trying to maintain a staunch NPOV policy with no exceptions, the WMF
> has been throwing out the baby with the bath water. The WMF already has the
> infrastructure and the vast resources needed to provide the world with a
> free source of reliable political knowledge if it could get over this
> misplaced NPOV mindset and realize that political knowledge can be provided
> in a neutral manner where the WMF facilitates (necessarily POV) political
> knowledge without imposing its own political POV.
>
> How a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on
> Wikipedia) might work
> This idea is described in more detail under Proposals for new projects
> (see WikiArguments: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/WikiArguments). Here
> are the basics of how a political knowledge "Wikipedia" would work as
> opposed to the present encyclopedic knowledge Wikipedia:
>
> For articles in the encyclopedic Wikipedia, NPOV makes perfect sense. But
> for articles in a political Wikipedia, POV is the essence of an article.
> Also, the basic standards for articles in a political Wikipedia would be
> very different because of the POV nature of the articles.
>
> For example, in the encyclopedic Wikipedia, there's one article called
> Brooklyn Bridge. It should not be arbitrary or subjective or contain
> original research, etc. Essentially anyone in the world could edit this
> article. But in a political Wikipedia, there would be four (POV) articles
> for each subject: one pro and one con POV article that only select
> government representatives could edit, and one pro and one con POV article
> that virtually anyone in the world could edit.
>
> As a fictional example, let's suppose some members of Congress propose
> legislation to build a new Brooklyn Bridge. Under the subject: HR 999
> Proposal to build a new Brooklyn Bridge, there would be one pro and one con
> argument edited only by members of Congress and one pro and one con
> argument edited by the general public.
>
> What makes POV articles in a political Wikipedia fundamentally different
> from typical POV articles (e.g. op-eds) on the Internet or mainstream media
> is this: they would be created dynamically in the same manner as articles
> in Wikipedia, by an evolving consensus of interested people (with a
> complete history of revisions), which tends to produce a more reliable,
> higher quality article.
>
> WMF's stated goals and its Strategic Plan practically beg for a political
> "Wikipedia"
> The introduction to WMF's annual report states: "All of the Foundation's
> technology initiatives can be boiled down to one goal - reducing the
> barriers to sharing knowledge."
>
> The barriers to sharing political knowledge are orders of magnitude
> greater than the barriers to sharing practically any other type of
> knowledge. In fact governments around the world purposely make it very
> difficult for the people to even obtain reliable political knowledge, much
> less share it, because hiding such knowledge benefits the special interests
> that hold sway over these governments. A political Wikipedia would greatly
> reduce these barriers, make it easy to share political knowledge, and
> thereby expose political deception and corruption.
>
> From WMF's Strategic Plan: "Access to information empowers people to make
> rational decisions about their lives. We believe the ability to access
> information freely and without restrictions is a basic human right."
>
> Wouldn't reliable political information empower people to make rational
> decisions about their lives at least as much as reliable information about
> the Brooklyn Bridge or the French Revolution? Wouldn't clearly-written pro
> and con arguments presented by our government representatives to explain
> and justify their positions empower people to make rational decisions about
> their lives at least as much as clearly-written encyclopedia articles?
> Wouldn't information about what our government is doing behind our backs be
> at least as much of a "basic human right" as information about the Brooklyn
> Bridge or the French Revolution?
>
> From WMF's Strategic Plan: "We know that no one is free from bias. But we
> believe that mass collaboration among a diverse set of contributors,
> combined with consensus building around controversial topics, are powerful
> tools for achieving our goals."
>
> The very same powerful tools could be used by a political Wikipedia to
> produce reliable, high quality political knowledge just as Wikipedia tends
> to produce reliable, high quality encyclopedic knowledge. You Wikipedians
> have developed an extremely powerful political tool that could
> revolutionize world politics and government, but you're using it only for
> encyclopedic knowledge.
>
> If you build it they will come
> The sheer clout of WMF would practically force government representatives
> to participate. Honest representatives would welcome such a respected and
> prominent place to explain and justify their positions. Dishonest
> representatives would be motivated too because refusing to clearly explain
> and justify a position is obviously intellectually dishonest and they'd pay
> for it politically. As Thomas Paine said, "It is error only, and not truth,
> that shrinks from inquiry."
>
> The time is ripe for Wikipedians to join the emerging worldwide freedom
> movement in a leadership role by promoting the full use and power of the
> Wikipedia concept to provide free political knowledge to the world. Time is
> not on our side.
>
> Addendum
> For more details please see: WikiArguments:
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/WikiArguments.
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)

Nathan Awrich
In reply to this post by Carmen-21
On Thu, May 3, 2012 at 10:00 AM, Carmen <[hidden email]> wrote:

> [This essay was rudely rejected by the gatekeepers at Signpost calling it
> irrelevant but not explaining why. Could someone please suggest where I
> might submit this for a fair hearing by the WMF community?]
>
>
To me it seems like you are somewhat unfamiliar with the difference between
the Wikimedia Foundation and its projects. The WMF can be "political" and
express a viewpoint; NPOV applies only to the article content of a single
project.  I'm also not sure your attempt to distinguish between "political
knowledge" and "encyclopedic knowledge" is particularly coherent, or at
least your essay lacks the detailed reasoning necessary to support the
distinction you're trying to make.

Even if your idea for a sort of gov-wiki - a project devoted to public
data, government operations and related information - has merit on its own,
and it might, your novel method of presenting pros and cons is simply
unworkable. This problem and the philosophical fuzziness of your argument
may be why your essay was rejected by the Signpost.

~Nathan
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)

Bod Notbod
In reply to this post by Carmen-21
On Thu, May 3, 2012 at 3:00 PM, Carmen <[hidden email]> wrote:

> For example, in the encyclopedic Wikipedia, there's one article called Brooklyn Bridge. It should not be arbitrary or subjective or contain original research, etc. Essentially anyone in the world could edit this article. But in a political Wikipedia, there would be four (POV) articles for each subject: one pro and one con POV article that only select government representatives could edit, and one pro and one con POV article that virtually anyone in the world could edit.

If we look at [[abortion]] on Wikipedia we find a link to [[abortion
debate]] with sections '#Arguments_in_favor_of_the_right_to_abortion'
and '#Arguments_against_the_right_to_abortion'.

So really I'm rather at a loss as to what the political wiki would add
except this right for politicians to have their own domain where they
hold authority on editing. But I doubt you would disagree with me
(going on your email) when I suggest that elected politicians are
pretty well served when it comes to platforms for making their
opinions known.

I guess I would agree with you that the public could be served better
by the media when it comes to assessing policy. But that brings us
back to Wikipedia's coverage of abortion as we have it now which, on
the face of it, seems* to present a rounded picture.

* I say "seems" cos I'm not going to claim to have read it.

I agree with Nathan that your argument seems muddled. You seem to be
suggesting that your innovation is to present POV arguments as
explicitly disallowed by Wikipedia. But you are also saying that this
POV is presented by giving arguments for and arguments against; ie two
POVs. But what we find on Wikipedia is generally already arguments for
and against - its NPOV in practice is to present relevant arguments
which taken alone are POV but when matched with the alternate views is
brought to neutrality.

So what are you left with? I suggest it would merely be Wikipedia but
broken into separate pages for convenience... a convenience which may
well lead to results that seem at odds with what you want to achieve.

What do I mean by that? Well, you want an informed public. Is a member
of the public going to be better informed if they read both arguments
or if they just read one side of the argument? And what do you think
is likely to happen if people are able to visit just one side of the
argument (which now has its own page in your scheme), unmolested by
the other side's voice (which would be present in Wikipedia)?

Bodnotbod

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)

Bod Notbod
> On Thu, May 3, 2012 at 3:00 PM, Carmen <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> For example, in the encyclopedic Wikipedia, there's one article called Brooklyn Bridge...

Actually, I've just considered this a bit longer (for my sins). It
occurs to me that perhaps you're not looking at big issues (like
abortion) but you perhaps mean something that would invigorate local
politics? You did give the example of building a bridge after all.

I suppose that would be an innovation: a wiki that covers political
issues that would be considered "non-notable" on Wikipedia.

The trouble you're going to have then, though, is participation. How
many people are going to want to join together to create a few pages
detailing the decision to stop the 34B bus service?

Bodnotbod

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)

Mike DuPont
In reply to this post by Carmen-21
On Thu, May 3, 2012 at 4:00 PM, Carmen <[hidden email]> wrote:
> The WMF should stop pretending it's politically neutral (NPOV).
+1


--
James Michael DuPont
Member of Free Libre Open Source Software Kosova http://flossk.org

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Why the Wikimedia Foundation should openly articulate its political POV by establishing a new neutral wiki for world political knowledge (modeled on Wikipedia)

phoebe ayers-3
In reply to this post by Bod Notbod
On Thu, May 3, 2012 at 10:29 AM, Bod Notbod <[hidden email]> wrote:

>> On Thu, May 3, 2012 at 3:00 PM, Carmen <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>
>>> For example, in the encyclopedic Wikipedia, there's one article called Brooklyn Bridge...
>
> Actually, I've just considered this a bit longer (for my sins). It
> occurs to me that perhaps you're not looking at big issues (like
> abortion) but you perhaps mean something that would invigorate local
> politics? You did give the example of building a bridge after all.
>
> I suppose that would be an innovation: a wiki that covers political
> issues that would be considered "non-notable" on Wikipedia.
>
> The trouble you're going to have then, though, is participation. How
> many people are going to want to join together to create a few pages
> detailing the decision to stop the 34B bus service?
>
> Bodnotbod

This would be a fantastic part of a locally-focused wiki, however.
Taking the example of the Davis city wiki (http://daviswiki.org),
local politics gets covered there all the time, with heated arguments
taking place in the comments!

So I suspect the solution for coverage of local issues is to embed
them in context, which is more helpful anyway (when you have a site
that describes the bridge, the body of water, the city, and the local
politicians AS WELL as controversies around any of the above). In
other words: all politics is rooted in community; some communities are
bigger than others.

As for the project proposal, I'd work on clarifying how you expect the
wiki aspect to work specifically; it seems like this would be
particularly hard to maintain. I suspect any system that limits itself
to edits from a small group of people as you seem to propose doing
wouldn't work very well. Additionally, I believe there have been a few
stabs at similar projects from other groups that you might look at;
Andrew Lih's idea for collective news annotation comes to mind, as do
others.

(As for the Signpost -- publishing full essays in support of project
proposals is a bit much, but doing brief writeups of new project
proposals on a regular basis in the Signpost seems like a good idea!)

best,
Phoebe

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