User:Rschen7754/The future of Wikivoyage
I've been involved in the English Wikivoyage since November 2012, and an admin here since January 2013. Before then, I had a Wikitravel account, but only made a handful of edits in 2006. Elsewhere on Wikimedia, I am an admin on the English Wikipedia, Wikidata, and Meta-Wiki, and am an oversighter on Wikidata too; I also am a global sysop. This means that I come to the English Wikivoyage with quite a different perspective than the other admins here, most of which came over from Wikitravel before the fork and subsequent WMF launch.
Most Wikimedia projects start when someone on Meta comes up with an idea, develops a prototype, gets people interested, and gets the WMF Board to sign off on it and get projects started. However, Wikivoyage came into being in a different way; it came to the WMF after the editing community became unhappy with the way that Internet Brands was running the for-profit Wikitravel. I won't rehash the exact details, but you can read all about it at Wikivoyage:Wikitravel.
But what does this mean?
- It means that the goal of this site is now different: whereas Wikitravel existed to serve as a profitable venture for Internet Brands, now Wikivoyage exists to serve as a non-profit collaborative project where anyone is free to write a user-driven travel guide. But that being said, the shift from Internet Brands to the Wikimedia Foundation does not mean that Internet Brands still owns Wikivoyage. Instead, Wikivoyage is now controlled by the Wikimedia Foundation, and must follow Wikimedia-wide policies. In addition to this, it means that there is the expectation for us as a site to adjust to the norms followed by the vast majority of Wikimedia projects.
- It means that this site did not come up from scratch; it was part of a migration that included both a community with existing policies, as well as content. To my knowledge, Wikivoyage is unique in this manner, as all the other Wikimedia projects were not developed with any existing community, content, or policies.
- It means that as the Wikimedia Foundation has helped our site out, and as we still want stuff from them such as software features, countervandalism assistance, help from stewards, etc. we should return the favor by working to integrate other Wikimedia editors, resources, and norms into our site, rather than the original Wikitravel attitude of working against Wikimedia. As Ikan Kekek put it, we don't want to bite the hand that feeds us.
- It means that if we want to differentiate ourselves from Wikitravel for SEO purposes, we must be willing to change both our content and behavior guidelines and policies, for if they remain the same, then the content generated will remain largely the same, and we will simply be a duplicate of Wikitravel and be ignored by Google until the site dies.
In short, we must be willing to change. We must not be afraid of change, and we cannot settle for just a little change. Wikimedia sites constantly change and evolve, and Wikivoyage cannot be an exception.
Through the typical vehicle of Wikimedia projects: Consensus.
Consensus as used on Wikimedia is difficult to understand at times. The pages I have linked above do a good job at explaining what it really is. But below are some brief points, and what I find particularly relevant:
- giving everyone on the site a chance to comment (or to not comment) on an issue, if they so desire. A fundamental principle of every Wikimedia site is that every member of the community is allowed to express their opinions in decision-making process. This is not limited to just those with administrator rights.
- making compromises that result in a stronger consensus
- recognizing when one is in the minority position and making concessions as appropriate
- recognizing when there is a significant minority, and making concessions to get them on board
- determined on-wiki.
- not always possible. Then, a different solution should be proposed, recognizing that there was no consensus for the previous one.
Consensus is not:
- just a simple "majority rules".
- determined after only a few people have commented, if others have not been given a chance to comment.
- set in stone; it can change.
- intimidating people so that they no longer object, and so that the people left dominate the discussion.
- determined in off-wiki venues, including but not limited to IRC, email, meetups, etc.
- obtained through repeated forum shopping until the other parties give up the debate.
- determined or influenced through canvassing, socking, or meatpuppetting.
I fundamentally believe that we have to straighten out our understanding of consensus before we try anything else on this site. I firmly believe that a faulty understanding of consensus (specifically that it requires unanimity), along with other methods, is leading us to reject any changes to the "status quo", and keep this site just like Wikitravel was. We must remember that one of the primary reasons that people forked from Wikitravel was because Internet Brands did not listen to community consensus; to choose to take that right away from the ordinary editor now on Wikivoyage would be to do no better.
Now that we have that settled, there are several areas where we are not adhering to Wikimedia principles and norms. In any organization, these are good practices to follow, and I think we need to work on practicing them.
Administrators who take admin actions should appear to be impartial when taking those actions. The admin tools should not be used for winning content disputes. Admins who have only acted in an administrative capacity are not considered to be partial.
We must treat everyone with respect and fairness, even if we do not like them. We cannot ban someone just because we do not like them. We must give someone a chance to defend themselves. We must rise above their behavior and not indulge in it ourselves, and then automatically win the argument because we are admins.
This is a founding principle. Everything on Wikimedia is logged, and the management of our sites is completely transparent. This helps to ensure that everyone is held accountable for their actions. The only exception is when privacy matters are involved; however, even CheckUser and oversight actions are privately logged, and the logs are available to those who hold those permissions, as well as stewards, ombudsmen, and WMF staff.
In that regard, we must conduct discussions where we make decisions on this site, and not in off-wiki venues.
We must include everyone in making decisions, not just admins.
We must be willing to work with other Wikimedia sites, both in the arenas of content and in policy. We should be willing to reference works on Wikipedia, for example, and help out other language Wikivoyages. We also need to respect global norms and policies, and not alienate users of other Wikimedia sites who decide to try editing here.
- Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment.
- From the Wikimedia Foundation homepage
At least 75% of the welcome messages I see nowadays are as follows: "Hi, and welcome to Wikivoyage! But you are doing this, this, and this wrong, and you should do it this way, or otherwise it will be reverted. Have a good day." This is certainly not welcoming to new editors; even a generic templated message would be better than this.
In addition to this, editor retention is currently a Wikimedia-wide focus. The number of active editors on all Wikimedia sites (except for maybe Wikidata) is declining, and we must take steps to make Wikimedia more user-friendly for all, or soon we will be left with no editors.
We are creating the best travel guide in the world, and we need everyone we can to do it.
Points of discussion
These are areas that I think that we may need to rethink our approach to. Some of these have had past discussions, while others have not.
- CheckUser and global policies: These are not something that we can ignore, and there is usually a good reason why they are in place...
- Edit warring: When an administrator is involved in edit warring, they should not be the one who blocks the other user; this erodes trust in the integrity of the system, and frequently, the administrator is just as guilty of the edit warring as the person who winds up blocked. We should not be using the admin tools to win disputes.
- Efficiency: It seems that we spend a lot of our time on administrative matters such as sweeping the Pub, and spending 14 days deleting noncontroversial materials, rather than writing a travel guide...
- Fair use: There have been discussions about this that have stalled, but the issue needs to be further examined.
- Obvious bad-faith editors: If an editor is obviously here only to troll, then there is no reason to allow them to continue editing - it's a waste of our time to put up with them.
- Welcoming newcomers: Many editors come over here from Wikipedia, and that is where their primary commitment is. If they find editing here challenging, or have several admins telling them to stop editing, they will stop and never come here again. Too bad, because they might have made this site better.
I think that after the debates of last year, we are on the right path. While I expressed concerns regarding us going down the path of some other notorious Wikimedia wikis (which shall not be named here), and while there will certainly be further growing pains ahead, I think that the future is bright for Wikivoyage.
2015 update (1 year later)
After I finished the above essay, I stepped down as a Wikivoyage administrator. It was my plan to remain semi-active and contribute here and there. However, my life soon got more busy (in a good way), and I only made 30 edits on the site in the year after that (until now), sharply declining in 2015. While I had hoped to focus on my work as a steward, I stepped down from that role at the end of my term in early 2015 for various reasons.
From the little that I have been able to follow, it has been encouraging to see this site grow and change for the better. While there is still a long road ahead, I think things have improved greatly here.
Unfortunately, I think it's time to say goodbye, not because of ill feelings towards those I worked with here, but because I no longer have the ability to contribute. I may still stop in here and there, but my activity on Wikimedia is decreasing overall, and I wouldn't be surprised if I went mostly inactive within the next few years. By the time I finally stop editing, I may be too inactive to even leave a goodbye message. So farewell, and best wishes for the future!
- It's good to hear from you. I'm glad your offline life has been good to you! Ikan Kekek (talk) 04:05, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
- w:en:User:Rschen7754/You represent the English Wikipedia! (sort of, but not entirely related)