Learning from conflict and incivility/Jade Knight

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This is my own particular take on conflict and incivility at Wikiversity. I have not been involved at all (save one neutral comment on the talk page) at the "ethics project", but I have been involved in situations of conflict and incivility at Wikiversity. I will put here the problems I have seen and my reflection. The Jade Knight 07:00, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

Conflict and Incivility at Wikiversity: Nexus[edit]

I have noticed that conflict tends to come to certain users at Wikiversity more than others. I shall list here the "main players" I see in situations of conflict at Wikiversity, roughly in order of conflict I see them attracting; this is not meant to impugn any of these individuals of generating conflict at this stage, but simply to list the nexus of conflict which I have noticed, that these may be used as case studies. If you are aware of others which I am missing, please to add them (with an appropriate link to conflict) to my talk page, and I'll take a look.

The Nexus:[edit]

Where to start?[edit]

Inexperience[edit]

The first question I ask myself is: what leads these users to conflict and incivility? It is possible in the cases of Moulton and Salmon of Doubt that ignorance of what is appropriate behavior and learning on Wikiversity is to blame. Given Salmon of Doubt's confessions here (and what seems to be an improvement in his contributions), I believe this may have been so in his case, and very possibly this was true of User:Moulton, as well. That said, their conflict (over the ethics project) needs to be addressed in some form or another, to try to prevent or shorten such a reoccurance in the future. Additionally, there may have been motivations behind the "ethics project" which made it prone to conflict; these should also be discussed.

Experience[edit]

This leaves JWSchmidt, McCormack, and myself. All three of us are Wikimedia, and indeed Wikiversity veterans. JWSchmidt was with Wikiversity at founding, and was among the very first appointed to be Custodians. McCormack joined in April 2007, and was appointed a Custodian almost immediately after. I joined in October 2006 (not long after Wikiversity showed up in its own right), and am not a Custodian. All three of us are very familiar with Wikiversity. All three of us are involved in other Wikimedia projects as well; I have been contributing to Wikipedia for about 4 years, and am an admin on the Norman Wikipedia. I expect JWSchmidt and McCormack have similar contribution histories. We cannot use ignorance as an excuse, unless it be clearly willful ignorance.

I believe that all three of us have been working hard to try to improve Wikiversity into the ideal model that we see it as. In the simplest terms, conflict has arisen because of misunderstandings or conflicting viewpoints about what the best Wikiversity should look like. Different people have different ideas about what Wikiversity should become. How should these conflicts be resolved?

The Crux of the Matter[edit]

I truly believe that the root of conflict centered around McCormack, JWSchmidt, and myself, is that we have different ideas of what Wikiversity should be, and we are all fighting in different ways to turn the Project into our Wikiversity. When we cross paths (which is frequently; JWSchmidt in particular is everywhere on Wikiversity, and my own Watchlist has over 700 pages), conflict erupts, and sometimes incivility. I will explore each of these three in more detail, and endeavor to profile them. If anyone (including these users) feel that the profiles are inaccurate, I would appreciate hearing their view on the talk page.

A note on Tools: When engaged in conflict, different users at Wikiversity will employ various "tools" in defense of their positions; these "tools" represent the various activities they engage in in defense of their position.

Three Profiles[edit]

If you have specific examples at hand of any of the following items (particularly those in bold), please post them on the talk page; this will save me some work in finding them myself.

JWSchmidt[edit]

In Brief[edit]
On Wikiversity[edit]
Concept of Wikiversity[edit]
  • JWSchmidt believes that one of the most important aspects of Wikiversity is that it be welcoming. JWSchmidt believes that cooperation is good, but not essential at Wikiversity, and that forking should be encouraged.
    • Welcoming: For JWSchmidt, "welcoming" means deleting or merging as little content as possible. JWSchmidt believes that deleting and merging content is rude and shows hostility to newcomers and their "seedling" projects. This is very important to JWSchmidt.
Tools in Conflict[edit]
  • JWSchmidt is willing to talk (usually); create learning projects; revert, employ straw men and sockpuppets against, call names at and intellectually challenge those he feels threaten his concept of Wikiversity. JWSchmidt is willing to take unilateral action on potentially controversial issues to ensure that his concept of Wikiversity is successful.
    • Create learning projects: JWSchmidt uses what he calls "learning projects" to defend his concept of Wikiversity; these projects are designed to lead the comer into adopting his own concept of Wikiversity, and feel negatively towards those who do not. JWSchmidt has twice circumvented the Deletion requests process by turning pages for deletion into such "learning projects". Examples: Albanian sea port history[1][2], Wikiversity:Student union[3].
      • JWSchmidt believes that his "learning projects" (which defend his concept of Wikiversiy) are more important than consensus, as shown by the revert war which followed his project at the Student union.
      • JWSchmidt also employs "alternative learning projects" (see below).
    • Straw men: JWSchmidt believes that defending his concept of Wikiversity is more important than accurately portraying the viewpoints of those who oppose his concept of Wikiversity. Here is one example of JWSchmidt changing the words of someone who disagreed with him to make them look stupid, ridiculous, and/or cruel.
    • Sockpuppets: JWSchmidt once created a sockpuppet (Trout of Doubt) to antagonize a new Wikiversitarian (Salmon of Doubt). JWSchmidt calls this a learning project (see above).
    • Call names: JWSchmidt has referred to those who disagree with his concept of Wikiversity as both "pagans" and "barbarians".
    • Intellectually challenge: JWSchmidt endeavors to challenge those who conflict with his concept of Wikiversity in as public a matter as possible (including on templates and pages linked from the main page); frequently this involves learning projects and straw men (see above). Some people consider this "hostile".
    • Unilateral action: JWSchmidt believes that his concept of Wikiversity is more important than other people's. To this end, JWSchmidt feels it is sometimes necessary to change or remove templates, mark proposed policies as existing policies, and revert, some of which he will do without or against consensus.

McCormack[edit]

In Brief[edit]
On Wikiversity[edit]
Concept of Wikiversity[edit]
  • McCormack believes that empty or stub projects which are obscure, controversial, or unlikely to be successful may be culled to provide a better experience for newcomers, and otherwise clean Wikiversity up for everyone. McCormack believes that consensus is important at Wikiversity. McCormack believes that intellectually bullying users in main project space is very hurtful for Wikiversity. McCormack values community highly.
    • Culled: McCormack believes that there is little point in keeping certain pages which show minimal effort and which are unhelpful for visitors; in such cases, McCormack supports deleting, merging, or redirecting the content/pages. However, McCormack supports keeping many pages which otherwise have little or no content, in the hope that they will eventually be expanded. He developed the Welcome and expand template to this end.
    • Consensus: McCormack considers community to be very important, and will sometimes be less assertive than he feels might be necessary when he considers that consensus or community will be reduced or harmed by his assertion. On the inverse, McCormack will ocassionally be very assertive when he feels his concept of Wikiversity community and the value of consensus are being threatened.
    • Intellectually bullying: McCormack believes that users should feel welcome at Wikiversity, and that hostility towards them harms what he feels Wikiversity should be. For this reason he opposes public intellectual challenges which appear hostile (see above).
    • Community: See consensus, above.
Tools in Conflict[edit]
  • McCormack is willing to talk; request censorship, revert once, and call names against those he feels threaten his concept of Wikiversity. McCormack does not like to remain in conflict unless he feels consensus strongly supports his views.
    • Request censorship: When other users place materials in a major project which specifically name a user, and ridicule (see intellectually bullying, above) that user's decisions, McCormack will ask that such materials be removed, regardless of the existence (or non-existence) of any learning content such materials contain; this relates to McCormack's concepts of community (see above).
    • Call names: McCormack once referred to someone who opposed his concept of Wikiversity as "the troll" in the Wikiversity IRC room.

Jade Knight[edit]

In Brief[edit]
  • Status: User
  • Location: Western USA
On Wikiversity[edit]
Concept of Wikiversity[edit]
  • Jade Knight believes that Wikiversity needs to be able to efficiently coordinate participants in order to be successful. To this end, Jade Knight believes that new participants should be directed to projects where they are most likely to get involved, learn, and produce. Jade Knight believes that, to this end, it is helpful to merge similar projects, to delete empty, and abandonned stub projects. Jade Knight believes that all users should be treated with civility and encouragement, no matter their views, though some kinds of behavior (ie, incivility) are unacceptable at Wikiversity. Jade Knight believes that consensus is very important at Wikiversity.
    • Efficiently coordinate participants: Jade Knight believes that most users come to Wikiversity looking for something to learn; he also believes that those who do find something to learn are more likely to contribute. To this end, an important part of his concept of Wikiversity is getting new users to learning projects in active development.
      • Part of Jade Knight's strategy for this is the removal and merging of projects which are not in active development and which appear to have little educational value.
      • Another part of Jade Knight's strategy for this is encouraging similar projects to work together to increase productivity (see produce below).
      • There are other parts to this as well, such as correct categorization, but most of these are uncontroversial.
    • Produce: Jade Knight believes users at Wikiversity create more content when they work together. Jade Knight tries to encourage users to spend more time on projects with others at them in order to further this. Jade Knight believes that when more is produced, there will be more to attract new producers to Wikiversity.
    • Merge similar projects: See efficiently coordinate participants and produce, above.
    • Delete empty, and abandonned stub projects: See efficiently coordinate participants, above.
    • Civility and encouragement: Being civil and encouraging is a very important part of Jade Knight's concept of Wikiversity; Jade Knight believes this attracts more producers (see above). Jade Knight will engage in conflict against those who feels threaten this aspect of his concept of Wikiversity. Jade Knight believes that this is critical for efficiently coordinating participants.
    • Consensus: Jade Knight believes that consensus is a very important part of civility and encouragement (above).
Tools in Conflict[edit]
  • Jade Knight is willing to talk; revert and argue with those he feels threaten his concept of Wikiversity. He is sometimes willing to respond in kind to those he feels threaten his concept of Wikiversity.
    • Argue: Jade Knight is passionate about defending his concept of Wikiversity, and, unless discouraged by consensus (see above), Jade Knight will vocalize (sometimes very strongly) his opposition to those who threaten his concept of Wikiversity. At times, Jade Knight may slip into incivility when he argues, but he tries not to.
      • Jade Knight does not like to argue when consensus is against him, or when consensus is against arguing.
    • Respond in kind: When Jade Knight is engaged in a conflict, and he sees someone who threatens his concept of Wikiversity using a tool in conflict which Jade Knight does not normally use, he will sometimes use the same tool against them, though usually to a lesser extent.
      • Jade Knight tries to clearly label when he responds in kind to illustrate what his opponent is doing, and to show that he normally would not do so himself.

Personal Reflections[edit]

What can be done when users have different ideas of what Wikiversity is, and those ideas conflict? While working on this project, I came to the realization that this was at the center of the conflicts JWSchmidt, McCormack, and I were involved with—a common element. To an extent, it is easy and simple enough to draw lines: "This is your Wikiversity, you sit there. This is my Wikiversity, I sit here. You're not allowed to come over to my side, and I'm not allowed to come over to yours." (Yes, a hyperbolic example.) But this clearly does not work with some things: what if two users arrive at the same project, and want to be involved, but see different things for Wikiversity? Should they battle? Fork? Get offended and leave? What about when it comes to Wikiversity: namespace pages, or policies? You can't really fork a policy or WV namespace page into two identical projects using two different ideologies. So what can be done? Consensus is critical here, because what must happen (unless I am missing something, which is possible) is that a view must be chosen, even if that view is to compromise, and those who refuse to accept that view must be either "sent to their room" (see "draw lines", above), or be blocked. For personal projects, forking is fine, but, at times:

Consensus is critical.

Questions for Discussion[edit]

  • How do we handle conflicts caused by differing concepts of Wikiversity?
  • What tools are acceptable at Wikiversity? Which are not?
    • Are some tools permitted, but discouraged?