Wikiversity:Proposed Hierarchical Structure

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This page is mainly a proposal from User:Donek and an ensuing discussion with User:Mirwin, which took place in November 2007. --McCormack 10:21, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

My vision for the new hierarchical structure was inspired by the editing I performed on the School: Medicine page. It struck me soon after that I was able to restructure an important page without anyone telling me i couldn't. I have read a lot about vandalism in wikimedia and I feel this proposed structure can combat that a little better than the current structure.

Current Hierarchy[edit]

The current hierarchy consists of four different types of people

  • The Board of Trustees
  • Administrators
  • Editors - registered and non-registered
  • Non-editing visitors

I believe that this is the same structure as all wikimedia projects which makes it difficult for a proposal like this to get off the ground. However, I feel that, because this is a university site, the structure should evolve slightly, while still maintaining the overall philosophy of everyone teaching and learning together. I just feel that this is an improved structure that will allow for better control of material without adversely affecting the freedom of the editors.

Proposed Hierarchy[edit]

I propose a more differential system:

  • The Board of Trustees
  • Administrators
  • Professors
  • Editors
  • Students
  • Visitors

How do you propose to reliably establish the categories? We will need detailed criteria for the programmers attempting to configure the software to track and enforce your categories. I think you may find an or style trust metric useful if you can resolve the seeding issues to the satisfaction of the learning communities and participants. After the top down authoritative seed selection (probably need to do this by fiat as we have no established trusted polling process) are we comfortable rating each other in a peer to peer fashion or must we resort to external credentialism? 13:35, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

  1. This question is difficult to answer due to the fact that I have not seen the current programs and, more importantly, I have a severe lack of programming experience. However, from what I do know (which is very little so please go easy on me), is it not possible to create two clones of the editor category, while at the same time creating a category for all "school:" and "topic:" pages so that they are only accessible by admins and profs? The student category would only be a formative category and they would enjoy the same freedoms as normal editors.
  1. This question is even more difficult to answer. I don't feel qualified to suggest that the peer to peer type rating system is completely ideal. Nor am I qualified to suggest it is not. However, is that not the current system when becoming an admin?

DónalMcK 14:06, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

There is already discussion of creating a new category of users at Wikiversity:Review board. This would be the equivalent of your "professors". The Jade Knight 10:13, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

The Board of Trustees[edit]

This intuitive group of wonderful individuals will have the deciding vote on whether or not this proposal is implemented. I hope they can give it due consideration.

False. Volunteers decide with their feet. You should be aware the Board has some conflicts of interest and may be quite happy to watch our participant migrate to their business sites to put some money in their pockets. user:mirwin

I was not aware of this. Thank you for your input. DónalMcK 14:09, 24 November 2007 (UTC)


The administrators will retain exactly the same privileges and roles as they currently enjoy. This proposal will have no merit without their valued support. However, they will have one extra responsibility. They will be responsible for appointing professors (see below).

Administrators are trusted by the community to do tasks such as delete useless pages. The kind of "power to promote" you are describing sounds like bureaucratship. In general, the community decides who should be promoted and then a bureaucrat pushes a button to make it happen.


Professors are a new group of editors, who will have no extra privileges than current editors but a few more responsibilities. They will not control the learning in any way, but will exert influence through guidance. They will structure the school and create learning projects, as well as formulate the lists of tasks to be done in the school. They will be responsible for the update of information.

To me this seems a bit silly. The upper level of the pyramid will be responsibly for tasklists and update the information. The only way I can see this working is by default appointing everyone a profession, so they do their own work (assigned by the god king or self selected?) while the people in charge stay out of the way. Personally, when I want someone to dictate my work assignments I will find a job where I get paid when finished with the assigned task. I hang out at Wikiversity to have some fun learning things of use to me. Since your busy guidance counselers will no doubt be too busy to discuss trivia with me how can they possibly "guide" me to materials satisfying my need to play simultaneously with my desire to learn things applicable to my own secret, private, personal projects? user:mirwin

Flase. It will be the profs in the middle of the pyramid who are responsible for task lists, a duty currently carried out by editors. There will be no delegations from profs to editors whatsoever. There will be a list of articles that have not yet been edited, but that those with considerable experience feel would be appropriate additions to the school. They may add them because of inexperience in the area for example. It allow editors to "window-shop" much like the current system. There will be no guidance counselling. There will be people available to resolve, upon request, academic issues in their field so the admins can get on with programming requests. You will still be able to satisfy you desired secret, private and personal projects at your leisure, whatever they may be DónalMcK 14:20, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Interesting. Perhaps your distillation process could work if we had adequate information flow control but I do not think we do. At this point brownian motion seems to me an adequate initialization process. Self selecting volunteers tend to oscillate between comfort zones and personal interests, with adequate participation in spots the structure everone seems to need so badly emerges, sometimes in documented form sometime via external information chains. Let me rephrase that. As conversions grow large no one can see all the information. Some people do not use IRC, some cannot wade through email timely, some stay in specific zones of Wikiversity unless they use Colloquium or Help Desk or personal network to get directed to other applicable communications channels. I agree. I can play here productively under your proposal as we improve it further even if it is a temporary setback compared to my personal preferences. Mirwin 07:25, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
  • I personally dislike this version of "professor". I prefer what's being developed over at Review Board, and I see a tangible need for it. The Jade Knight 10:13, 5 September 2008 (UTC)


Editors will remain exactly the same as they are now with one small and important difference. They will not be able to edit "school:"" or "topic:" pages. This is important because then only professors can influence the structure of the school and the learning outcomes of each department.

The above has some clear logic problems in both intent and probable outcome. I assure you that it is impossible to setup a learning process using today's technologies where learners cannot influence the actual structure and learning outcomes. If you have a system that even approximates the above such as a gulag or reeducation site even if all visible outcomes are to your "professors" satisfaction there will be combat engineering going on in private thoughts not shared publicly.

I don't understand this. Please explain. DónalMcK 14:24, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

If somebody is put in charge of Lunar Boom Town with the authority to deny me the ability to change or influence the main organizing pages then I have several options. I can live with it and resent it in which case it is tempting to establish alternate links and inputs into the process via creative use of the web space technologies all around us thus subverting this unacknowledge authority. I can attempt to fork an appropriate section of the project and recruit buddies and talent into the newly formed sovereign territory not ruled by the despised people who attempted to unlawfully excercise force against my freedom of action. I can engage in reputation tarnishing or character assassination by use of sock puppetry to sway the valuable brain share that the newly appointed god king must be deposed. Lots of permutations of grumpy behavior can arise when someone feels unfairly constrained. Incidentally, I have established a "simulated vandal zone" at Lunar Boom Town to begin creatively thinking about some of these related issues and possible strategies. Combat engineering at its finest is adequate preparation of the battleshprere such that the side we pick wins. A working axiom for me is that in War a sucker punch is a fair defensive strategy. When chaotically unstable juveniles and delinquents appear in our midst I think we should be ready for them so that our project is prosperous and beneficial to human civilization. In my view moral behavior is critical to safe design and operation of complex systems of systems and we must establish some adequate boundaries to provide beneficial learning. Initial conditions we cannot control and external real world events are beyond our reach for the moment. Later, after some success our reach will grow and the communities and self organizing teams with be able to assist each other with many issues of external origin. Getting the synergy started is challenging but I think we are showing steady progress. Mirwin 07:14, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
I think Mirwin has valid concerns. I also don't think this would be productive—anyone can be helpful in Wikiversity in any context. The only real reason I can see a need to have "professors" (per my comment above) is simply to have a reliable opinion on a matter, to help keep things honest and reliable. The Jade Knight 10:13, 5 September 2008 (UTC)


These are new editors who haven't yet demonstrated proficiency in editing.

If the only thing Wikiversity is teaching is editing skills then I question the benefit of using the terms "professor" and "editor". Newcomers can be designated students and when they achieved whatever level of editing proficiency they desire with the Wikimedia editing interface they can graduate. This would severely reduce the scope and usefulness of the Wikiversity. user:mirwin

Well-written, objective, informative and entertaining artiles can not be based on good editing alone, that much I agree with, but they are unattainable without it. This category is formative only. Maybe it could be a good way to describe unregistered editors. Please discuss DónalMcK 14:28, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Not all team members need good editing skills if some wandering participants will occasionally lend a hand with editing. Personally I gladly fix occasional typos or sentence fragment when I am trying to understand a trusted team members contribution if it gives me access to expertise and other skills which I do not have and do not wish to learn. Much of the best expertise in the world in unavailalble to Wikiversity simply because many older people simply detest computers. Indeed recently I have found myself resorting to paper sketching and scanning because I cannot find an open source sketch pad adequate to allow me to think about engineering issues while operating the damn clunky man machine interfaces. If someone else wants access to my graphical ideas they will simply have to figure how to use the scanned images I can provide or convert them into personally useful formats. Potentially that means a third person or even more people involved before my idea can move into the format others would find useful to easily modify. If we get Lunar Boom Town going well we may need to find volunteer transcribers willing to input senior engineer's verbally recorded comments so they are accessible to others. Not everyone can listen to a verbal brief critical analysis review or feedback in reference to a medium complex data item and accurately understand what an expert is trying to tell them. Mirwin 07:14, 25 November 2007 (UTC)


The ladder can be climbed in a number of different ways, but all should require the creation of an adequate portfolio.

For my personal enlightenment can you provide specific examples of potential portfolio elements? Mirwin 08:17, 25 November 2007 (UTC)


When a student shows proficiency in editing he/she can be nominated by any editor for promotion by the professors within the school.

Wikipedia hit critical mass by elevating everyone almost automatically to admin status and then removing the privelege from people who could not learn to effectively exercise their vast powers responsibly with a minimal modicrum of courtesy or at least not outright hostility to other users. Perhaps we should copy this successful mechanism to grow our participation a bit before levying constraints on participants. Mirwin 13:44, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

That is a well thought out, structured arguement. However, you assume that I am proposing implementation tomorrow :) DónalMcK 14:30, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

More like hoping. :) You are tackling tough questions here that we have been grappling with for a while with tiny incremental progress. As a freedom loving inclusionist I was hoping you had some detailed proven solutions to advance our projects dramatically in gigantic steps for all mankind. However, provoking thought is progress. Clearly the more effective thought we manage to apply the sooner we will have the effective innovations and capability expansion we all desire in pursuit of our mission statements and goals. Mirwin 07:34, 25 November 2007 (UTC)


When an editor displays extensive proficiency in editing he/she can apply for the position of professor within the school. The decision should be unanimous among the professors and the final decision should be given to an administrator. The administrators should appoint one professor to each school at the beginning via an application process and subsequent appointments should be made following the above process.

If this system were implemented I guess lazy project engineers could always establish a club or lab or something where guiding lights were excluded if they started reducing local productivity or playful atmosphere. Allowing a bit of unsupervised creativity pursuing our own goals rather than the systems of systems of bosses and micro god kings you are proposing. I think you might want to check out Jimbo and Angela and et. al. of the Wikimedia Foundation trustees commercial web site. Effectively we might have this capability already. Anyone who wants to be a department manager can setup a wiki there and control who can edit. also provides this capability for free but I think their business model is free space for advertising of capabilities. They may not be able to handle the volume if your experiment is successful. Mirwin 13:51, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Those issues are outside my remit. This is a proposal to induce rational debate DónalMcK 14:36, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

I think it is working. I must admit that I do not clearly understand what you are proposing because my exposure to university organization and management is strictly limited to undergrad participation. Should your small groups of professors will share interests and compatible working customs or fission into fragments more compatible I think this might be very excellent. I have been exploring ways to assemble venture teams that essentially are virtual distributed research, development, and exploitation (I use this in the actual definition sense of maximum productivity and benefits distributed fairly, not abusive criminal behavior as some pretend the term means) opportunities. I have put nothing on this site regarding this more venture capitalist approach because the no original work culture inherited from early Wikipedia has provided no starting point for protecting and sharing common work other than to donate it to the public. My alma mater, Oregon State University, appear to have become a powerhouse of entrepreneurial innovation dragging Oregon out of the tree age into the future of distributed sustainable manufacturing. When the time comes to experiment here I am confident some expertise and effort will be forthcoming. Meanwhile I am happy you are working improve our professor/student/custodial processes. Mirwin 07:47, 25 November 2007 (UTC)


As the wikiversity community inevitably expands and diversifies, I feel it essential to remove the ability for new users to freely edit important pages that set out the aims and objectives of experienced, knowledgable and dedicated volunteers. This new system is not designed for elitism, but for influential guidance to both teachers and students alike. It also provides for a more systematic approach to providing knowledge and skills to those who wish to receive it.

I think you should be proposing to add capability by installing a parallel inverted structure for those who want it rather than deleting the existing creative chaos completely. It is not now and never has been the intent of Wikiversity to inhibit organized, structure, disciplined, systematic study of specific tasks or topics.

What, you mean a user-defined structure? How would that work? DónalMcK 14:38, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Ideally a person could answer some queries and set some initialization information and the site would begin to adaptively help them into appropriate zones or projects. Before this can be programmed it must/can be prototyped via manual routing methods. Parachute a thousand novices into an educational playground. Watch the patterns. Where do conflict or stress seem to pile up? Why? How to alleviate? Saturate the playground or prison yard with adequate security to minimize damage while fix problems. As problems fade and grow reallocate resources appropriately. Except here at Wikiversity by nature of the medium we are all watching each other play with each and all others and trying to figure out how to attract sufficient attention to get the information tracks initialized and improving to be more attractive and obvious to newcomers. Each newcomer changes the entire cutural matrix and the perturbations must propagate and fade out. As we get better our attractiveness and capacity grows into exponential trends. Important to remember we really are a pure peer to peer function. Any adequately functioning adult knows that Jimbo Wales, Founder, Corrupt Chairman of the Stacked Board Emeritas is not really a god king. All the process data is available to a fork to attempt improvements elsewhere. The ensemble is attracting serious intellectual capital in an attempt to exploit the technologies potential for everybody's long term benefit. As a set of interlocking boundaries or spam filters and interconnecting point to point communications we seem to have a self adapting information continuum driven by massive participation. System drifts according the total behavior of all participants. If we demand elections we get them. If we enforce data citatation rules by edit war or arbcom mediation we start to see verifiable information accumulating. Each subgroup potentially sets an ever changing social contract all the way down to one person per page and all the way up to 100 percent consensus. Just depends on where we wish to go at this moment under the influence of asynchrous weighted peer feedback. Mirwin 08:10, 25 November 2007 (UTC)

Petition For[edit]

If you support this proposal in essence, please show your approval by signing here:

  • Mirwin 13:57, 24 November 2007 (UTC) I endorse this expansion of our existing capability. Tough problems sorting out implementation but very useful in future to help parents and guardians responsibly manage juvenile participation at Wikiversity.

Petition Against[edit]

If you entirely disapprove of this proposal and all its philosophies, sign here:

  • Mirwin 14:00, 24 November 2007 (UTC) I entirely oppose throwing away what we have already accomplished to start an entirely new set of experiments just as the place seems to be getting a little interesting and possibly close to effective initiative of some actual study groups. Adding user selectable and manageable control tools is acceptable to me as long as they are used by and for users benefits rather than to accrue meaningless power over other random users.


If you are undecided about this proposal and require more information about it, please post your questions here and I shall answer them in bold:

  • Do you have specific volunteers already available to serve in positions of authority? If so, I would like to know who they are. Thanks! Mirwin 14:02, 24 November 2007 (UTC)


  • Do you have specific appeal, adjudication, arbitration, negotiation methods, procedures, and/processes in mind when disagreement arises between prof-prof, and all other binary permutations or your authority level set? Mirwin 14:04, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

prof-prof disputes can be resolved by admins, as is the current system. Nothing on the rest as of yet. But, hopefully someone can come in with some constructive comments about it. Thank you :) DónalMcK 14:41, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Nice. I missed originally that you essentially have the profs self selecting each other for ability to get along and then if an external viewpoint is needed to help facilitate discussion or decision making then they have an preassigned facilitor available. Mirwin 08:14, 25 November 2007 (UTC)