Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wikipedia and church discipline

Wikipedia is an interesting case study in the church discipline model, since the documentation is entirely public. Obviously wikipedia is not a church and doesn't have a particular religious philosophy. However they are a social organization which is large enough to need a bureaucracy and a governing structure. Moreover, Wikipedia seeks a wide body of contributors.

Further the judicial system quite explicitly is not focused on "determination of guilt" and takes pride in the fact that it doesn't offer a full fledged due process. The focus is on restoration of the offender to editing not enforcement.

That is like a church:

  • They can't or won't "vet" members before they join
  • They don't have any capability to punish misbehavior in the "real world".
  • Maintaining status within the group is extremely important for contributors.
  • They need large amounts of voluntary service.
  • This service needs to be provided in an organized fashion and under the control of leadership
First off just as within the church there is a hierarchy of position based on your knowledge and willingness to apply policy (discernment in Christian terms). And just as in a church there are members and members with clout.
The Matthew 18 process works through stages very similar to those used by churches with its is a very heavy use of social sanction:

The first state as per Matthew 18 is a private confrontation usually on an article or personal talk page. After that other people get involved in the disagreement. For the proce
ss to proceed further there needs to be a consensus or strong majority (excluding the "trouble maker"). If this is achieved then there is a more broad based public complaints: administrators notice board, RFC (request for comment), mediation. All directed at trying to bring them back into compliance. Finally arbitration the focus is on their refusal to be good in the consensus building stages and not not the underlying issue). Again this is like a church where the focus is on unrepentant sin. Finally the penalty stage where the most common penalty is excommunication which they call a ban.

For readers of this site I'd recommend looking at the arbitration committee hearings and following backwards. Meatball wiki is an entire wiki dedicated to the topic of community rule and how to encourage behavior.

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