User:Guy vandegrift/Blog/Making Wikiversity less chaotic

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Circle-icons-megaphone2.svg This is a B grade opinion piece judged by its author, who is master of this domain

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Relevant discussions also at:[edit]
  1. User:Mu301/Learning_blog&oldid=1800172#An_essay_on_the_philosophy_and_practice_of_the_"wiki_way"
          See also User:Mu301/Learning blog/2016-02
  2. Wikiversity:Community Review/Fringe research
  3. Wikiversity talk:Community Review/Fringe research

Preliminary thoughts (collapsed)[edit]

Not essential reading

I would call Wikiversity and Wikibooks the two greatest ideas in modern education that have never been implemented. The first step toward fixing this is contemplate the paradigm that made Wikipedia so successful. I believe the success of Wikipedia was due in part to the policy of having only one article per subject. This is rule is not always followed, for example in the two articles w:Quantum mechanics and w:Introduction to quantum mechanics are structured to resemble Wikipedia/Wikibooks. But the attempt to follow this policy allows a large Wikipedia community to focus on a relatively small number of controversies. We at Wikiversity have the opposite situation: A small number of qualified administrators, and a plethora of resources that seem to generate endless debate.

Proposed changes in policy(collapsed)[edit]

I am collapsing this section because most people seem to already agree with me

Find a place on Wikiversity for all non-harmful efforts

We should not overreact to what we perceive as poor-quality articles by banning them from Wikiversity. Instead, we structure namespace so that questionable articles are not at the "front of the store". We have no choice but to permit all non-harmful articles because we permit research and student efforts. A child's speculation about the laws of physics are almost certainly wrong, but we want that child to participate fully on this wiki at an appropriate place in namespace. Also, I am not qualified to judge articles on General Relativity, even though I have a Ph.D. in physics. Any effort to remove low-quality resources will only catch the worst of the worst. We simply lack the resources to fight mediocrity. Instead we should focus on creating high quality material that will stand on its own merits.

One exception to this "anything goes" rule should be a strict enforcement of the non-commercial policy. Allowing people to make money on Wikiversity would open the floodgates to thousands if not millions of would-be entrepreneurs. There was once a controversy on Wikiversity regarding a suicide resource, and I strongly support banning articles that encourage people to harm themselves or others.

1. Keep namespace clean, simple ... and uncontroversial Resources without clear and conventional educational value need to be in subspaces. Names in mainspace like "History", "Politics", "Religion" need to be nodes or other resources, or be universally recognized as valuable.

2. We need a "chain of command" I never understood how decisions are made on Wikipedia. But from what I saw at Wikipedia:What_Wikipedia_is_not#Wikipedia_is_not_a_democracy, I think we need a strong Arbitration Committee.

3. Create quality labels A good Arbitration Committee could arrange for quality/type banners to appear on most (if not all) Wikiversity pages. It is not censorship to allow a controversial page, but insist that it contains a "Fringe Science" banner at the top. Personally, I prefer small labels such as the one I created at the top of this page, but a larger one is OK with me if that is what the community wants.

4. Welcome diversity by outsourcing the decision-making to smaller units semi-independent units We need to keep the Arbitration process decentralized. See "Guilds". This gives the best of both worlds: We need diversity. But any good journal or textbook needs a hard nosed editor who quickly makes decisions. The idea is that is we have two "camps" or groups of people with dissimilar approaches, they might have separate arbitration committees that deal with separate subspaces under mainspace. This has already been implemented on the m:WikiJournal_User_Group, which has four journals, and presumably four editorial boards.


  1. I am a wikimaker on Miraheze and would gladly help place resources that are deemed "fringe" or "unorthodox" on private wikis. Some of us on Wikiversity want to do a lot of housecleaning, and we can make that process much more efficient if the consequences of resource deletion were not so dire for the authors of those resources.
  2. As an instructor, I need Miraheze because I don't want my students seeing each other's lab reports as they write them, and because many lab reports will be handwritten pages that they photograph with their cell phones and upload to their wiki. That would create a lot of silly files on Wikiversity. See for links to 100 student wikis that I created last year. I also want to store "secret" exam questions that students cannot see. These questions would supplement the Quizbank/Entire bank that students can see and use as study guides.
  3. The WikiJournal group is trying to promote journals that feature articles written in Wikitext. Ideally, such articles should be composed and organized in wikitext from the start. Just as competing students should not always see each others' work in progress, academics also need privacy. I am no expert in trademark law, but I suspect that the name I gave to wikiversity.miraheze yields control of that wiki to the Wikiversity community (that was certainly my intent.)

 See also Gazetteer of wikis

Weird idea#1: Creation of ♠♥♣♢[edit]

Since writing this post, I created ♠/About. The fundamental problems remain the same: How do we select and highlight the excellent while making Wikiversity a place for ALL students? I have tentatively formatted ♠/About for the best resources. But in light of interwiki developments on wikidata, I now believe these spaces should be reserved for student writing and alternative approaches to the philosophy of science and knowledge.--Guy vandegrift (discusscontribs) 22:35, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

Weird idea#2: Use BOTS to do a complete "scrub" of Wikipedia mainspace[edit]

I am collapsing because we are probably not ready for this discussion yet
  1. First we form an arbitration committee that can make quick decisions. The policy of forking gives Wikiversity a big advantage over Wikipedia, because the worst case scenario for a high quality but unconventional resource is that it gets buried one level down in a subspace. That is not censorship!. Another feature of Wikiversity that renders quick decisions necessary is our tolerance of student efforts. We just can't get into these weeds by judging every single resource (@Dave Braunschweig:see[1]) The rants of a 66-year old crank old should be treated equally to the immature musings of a precocious 12-year old. Restricting these items to user-space ignores the mandate that we foster collaboration between Wikiversarians ({{Ping|User:Mu301}}see[2])
  2. Prepare for a major cleanup that uses BOTS to "scrub" clean almost all of Wikiversity. The BOTS will be capable of moving EVERY mainspace page one level down and perhaps cleaning up the links[3]
  3. Select the mainspace pages that seem suitable and exempt them from this "scrub" by the bots. These decisions can be made quickly because they are tentative and easily reversed after the bots have completed the scrub.[4]
  4. Write one or two generic templates for all scrubbed mainspace items. It will briefly explain what is going on and link out to more explanations on other pages. Then we scrub, an deal with the chaos that will follow. We need that arbitration committee to start planning these details right now!
  5. Use this reform to promote Wikiversity to the WikiMedia community. Wikiversity has a well-deserved bad reputation. As with AA, to the first step to redemption is to admit that we have a problem.

Some questions for those attempting to improve Wikiveristy[edit]

I have recently created two resources relevant to OpenStax textbooks. I believe they will become just two of over a dozen similar resource pages that will eventually reside in a prominent location in mainspace.

OpenStax College Physics (under construction)
OpenStax University Physics Volume 1 (more or less complete and ready to use)

Question 1: Where in namespace should they go?[edit]

But should their addresses be different? For example OpenStax University Physics Volume 1 could instead be:

  1. OpenStax University Physics/Volume 1
  2. OpenStax/University Physics Volume 1
  3. OpenStax/University Physics/Volume 1

I ask because I intend to create OpenStax Astronomy right now. Unlike the previous two, this will be in collaboration with about 24 students, and we might decide create lots of "Draftspace" type documents.

  • Mainspace seems fine for this. I would suggest that option 3 (OpenStax/University Physics/Volume 1) looks like the best one of the three. Maybe it’s the inner Categorist/Structurist in me but I prefer a structured approach. Alternatively you could use OpenStax/Physics/University/Volume 1 seeing as you have a College version planned too? Green Giant (discusscontribs) 22:39, 10 January 2018 (UTC)
I will not be creating more pages till Spring Break, when I hope to do University Physics Volume 2. Here is what would swing me towards OpenStax/Physics/University/Volume 1: When I list the subpages to OpenStax using, e.g. Template:Subpages, I get ALL the subpages. If I had template that went one step down, then the Subpages of OpenStax would have Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Exam banks, ect. But as it is now, the list of subpages goes all the way down to the bottom. How hard is it to list only the principle subpages (i.e. one layer down?)--Guy vandegrift (discusscontribs) 00:19, 11 January 2018 (UTC)

Question 2: How do I attach student efforts pertaining to these resources[edit]

  1. I think any subspace of Wright State University Lake Campus is a poor idea because eventually we want a plethora of such efforts, and don't want to be bothering with category interconnects (because among other things, any Tom, Dick or Harry could "join" the category from any page). I tentatively propose:
  2. OpenStax Astronomy/Student efforts (note the small print format that we could use to gussie up how we gussy up student efforts that are placed in something like a draftspace.--Guy vandegrift (discusscontribs)
  • Your tentative suggestion fits quite neatly into what I would prefer to see at Wikiversity i.e. a more structured approach but with some of the administrative structure flattened (imho there are too many Schools, Divisions and Departments, and not enough learning projects or courses). Whilst a course is “live” I think it should be fine to exclude non-class efforts (maybe move them to userspace?). However, there is a lot of potential in leaving material for other people to read and participate in (with or without your assistance) but encouraging them to keep their work in their userspace.
  • That said, although I don’t want to muddy the discussions on draftspace, I think there is potential for a “Portfolio” namespace where participants (students or otherwise) could create their "homework" in response to the challenges set out in the learning materials in main space, and it would be solely for such efforts. The "Portfolio talk” page could instead be called "Portfolio review" (as I understand it is possible to have a word other than "talk"). Why “Review”? Well I was imagining someone creates a Portfolio page (eg an essay in response to a question in main space). They could then have it reviewed against some criteria to give them feedback (now I think about it, "Portfolio feedback" sounds good too). We have a lot of "review" processes to compare with eg featured articles on Wikipedia but a really good example is Wikinews. If you’re unfamiliar with it, click on my username -> click the “News” tab -> look at any blue linked article and see the "talk page" (called Collaboration on there) for how it was reviewed. Green Giant (discusscontribs) 23:08, 10 January 2018 (UTC)
@Green Giant: Thanks for responding. Your experience and understanding of wikiworld exceed mine. I am not against Portfolio, or even Research namespaces. But all things equal, I prefer simplicity. When all is said and done, I think we want a small namespace reserved for our very best work, things that will attract new members. What I do know from personal experience, is that teaching generates a lot of text that nobody would ever want to reach while doing a Google search. In the future I will have students compose in their userspace, or on their "loaner" Miraheze accounts at .--Guy vandegrift (discusscontribs) 23:58, 10 January 2018 (UTC)

Back to the guilds[edit]

I need to learn about Wikiversity:Community review. I know these wiki's aren't democracies, but what are they. Who makes that final undemocratic decision? Is it a board somewhere? How does one call for arbitration to overule a "consensus" achieved on talk pages?

Why this is important[edit]

Generally speaking, Wikipedia has a one-article per topic policy, while Wikiversity forks into parallel resources, if for no other reason, because education demands it. But this forking also creates the opportunity for diverging points of view on a single subject. It also allows students to produce articles of questionable quality. All of this overloads the "wiki way" that works (more or less) on Wikipedia.

Wikiversity already places boxes at the top of articles describing educational level and state of completion. But the most property is quality. Is this worth reading? Now the "wiki way" faces real difficulties. Let's think about the versity part of WV: To some extent we need to act like a university, and universities assign grades. Two observations:


Footnotes and comment[edit]

  • NOTE: Footnotes that fail link back up are probable in text that has been collapse. To read the context go up an uncollapse the text.
  1. Dave, note weeds link to Wiktionary intended to help those unfamiliar with idiomatic English. This is why I want private wikis for my students. All my students are tasked with a project intended to improve the course. There is a certain style to wikitext that can only be mastered by writing in wikitext, and these links are part of that style.
  2. Mikeu, I will never oppose the deletion of a worthless page in Wikiversity. And I will even reluctantly support an Arbitration Committee with draconian powers to quickly perform such deletions. But I am not sure that the Wikiversity community will go along. I still don't understand why we can't simply demote empty resources one level down from a mainspace page that clearly identifies the nature of these empty resources.
  3. Fixing links is not an essential feature, since the well-known quality resources will not be touched by these bots.
  4. To make it clear that being "scrubbed" is no disgrace, all members of the arbitration committee should have their own resources scrubbed
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