WikiJournal of Science/About/The guilds

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WikiJournal of Science
WikiJournal of Science logo.png
Technical data
by Guy vandegrift

Friendly edits edits are welcome.[1]

In the spirit of Creative Commons no claim is made on this guild symbol. If you want to create a guild, do not hesitate to use this icon.

This effort to create journals and guilds is an attempt to fix a problem that really does exist.

We need a WMF wiki that produces documents useful for instructors teaching actual courses. The problem is that Wikipedia is not configured to create these documents, and progress is slow on Wikibooks and Wikiversity.

(Click) Update for the latest developments.

The problem[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia is an encylopedia. It can't be a textbook and it it has limited tolerance for parallel "schools of thought", which I define as differences of opinion held by reasonable people who recognize the value of each other's views.
  2. Wikiversity permits POV, student contributions, and even research. This makes Wikiversity a vibrant and exciting community. But unfortunately, many of its pages are not suitable for use by teachers. This dilution of pages suitable for teaching deters both readers and potential contributors.
  3. Wikibooks is creating entire books, which understandably, takes more time. Many Wikibooks are as yet unfinished. See, for example Wikibooks:General Astronomy/New Ideas About Motion

It is hoped that these journals and guilds will help Wikibooks and Wikiversity editors find quality teaching materials. It is important to recognize a distinction between the goals of a debate on Wikipedia and Wikiversity. On Wikipedia, the goal is to find the "best" answer, while Wikiversity discussions about how to best teach a topic often result in two different answers. The proposed journals and guilds will allow both viewpoints to coexist. The guilds will allow journals with a common philosophy to band together, essentialy creating a decentralized "rating system". Each reader will independently judge the relative value of a given guild's point of view.

The solution[edit | edit source]

Wikiversity journals will publish articles that have been peer reviewed. No claim is made that this reform represents a magic bullet. But it might speed up the development of educational materials on the wikis.

  1. According to this survey, the prime disincentive against making scholarly contributions to Wikipedia is that it does not advance careers. Single or dual-author articles that were written in userspace will be able to publish their work under a byline. Some journals might choose to attribute actual identities in their bylines, while others will credit by username only. This opportunity to offer bylines might increase the total effort made towards writing educational materials. It is possible that contributions to Wikiversity Journals might someday become a routine means by which young scholars at or near college graduation can begin to establish their reputations.
  2. Instructors will have access to peer reviewed versions, with a choice between permalink and printable PDF.
  3. The journal will also link to the editable wiki version of the article so it can continue to be improved.
  4. To ensure quality control, the journals will form one or more guilds, which will be associations with no power except that which they earn by reputation. These guilds will permit both the efficiency of centralized decision making, as well as the egalitarianism associated Wikipedia. This egalitarianism is achieved because:

Guilds chose what journals they accept, and any group of journals may create a guild.

Unintended consequences?[edit | edit source]

Any proposed solution must be evaluated for the possibility unintended consequences.

  1. One unintended consequence might be that efforts on short journal articles might detract from the the larger projects at Wikibooks and Wikipedia. This might be offset by the reduction in time required to debate whether a given page or chapter belongs in Wikibooks or on the mainspace of Wikiversity. By transferring such decisions to smaller decision making units, the journals and guilds might be able to quicken the decision-making process.
  2. Another unintended consequence might occur if more than 1% of the over 10,000 open access journals in existence migrate to Wikiversity.[2] My guess that they will bring more ideas than problems, but we can be certain that they will bring both.
  3. The concept of journals might not attract enough participants to make a difference. Except for the time invested in this effort, no harm will be done (and the students who write or referee articles will have learned something).

Changing the wiki way[edit | edit source]

We should not exclude the possibility that this introduction of journals and guilds might profoundly change the wiki way.

At the moment, editors of Wikipedia, Wikibooks, and Wikipedia are not only writing new content, they are also continuously monitoring mainspace for pages that don't belong, and revising the contents of Schools and Portals in order to make the quality materials easier to find. Wikipedia decision-making is dominated by experts. But this effort to sustain quality control is time consuming and tends to favor comprehensive (i.e., encyclopedic) articles, because the most expedient way to achieve consensus is to include all information that can be verified. This does not make it easy for a lone editor to arbitrarily exclude information simply because its inclusion would make the article too long.

Wikipedia is a highly decentralized institution, and while it is not a democracy, the culture is democratic and egalitarian. The alternative to the the wiki way is to give editors broad powers to quickly make arbitrarily decisions. Such power is typically not associated with democracy or egalitarianism, unless efforts are made to decentralize this power. The purpose of the guild is to allow journals to compartmentalize this power into small associations that are voluntary in nature, and whose power may be removed by any journal simply by resigning membership from the guild. This will relieve the WMF of the responsibility to micromanage this power. The WMF will of course exert ultimate control over the guilds, but the voluntary nature of the guild structure should allow the WMF and Wikiversity to stay out of most frays.

The next section outlines some rules that Wikiversity might consider for adoption.

Recommended policy[edit | edit source]

The following guidlines represent only a rough sketch of actual policy that needs to be carefully constructed.

  1. The guild sign can only be posted with the permission of the guild, and no editor should be allowed to create a similar guild symbol that might deceive readers.
  2. There should be a limit to the number of journals and guilds associated with an individual or group of individuals.[3] It is much easier to create more of something if it is of low quality.
  3. Some regulation of how journals and guilds make decisions might be wise. The intent is to ensure that the decision is made in an orderly fashion. Without this precaution, the WMF might find itself attempting to understand and enforce a guild's or journal's bylaws.[4]
  4. There is no reason to preclude main pages in Wikiversity from highlighting the best journals or guilds. The intent of this proposal is not to eliminate top-down hierarchies in wikis, but instead to reduce their importance.

On Wikipedia, the goal is to either identify the scientific consensus or to fairly document the disagreement between experts. But education is both an art and a science[5], and scientific debate does not always answer the question. This proposed structure is designed to allow individuals locked in endless discussion to amicably part ways.

Update[edit | edit source]

OpenStax equations/Guild |}Since writing this editorial, I found another way to solve the problem. Miraheze is a wikifarm that closely resembles in both appearance and software. I allows private wikis for each individual student, permitting them to create an entire article, which can then be posted on Wikiversity or Wikipedia. A permalink to that original "complete" posting of the resource can then be used to establish the author's reputation. In other words, students can begin an academic resume before obtaining a college degree. In most cases, this private effort could be done on Wikiversity, or even Wikipedia (if it is done in userspace). But the advantage of the private wiki is that students in an entire course can be assigned to write reports on the same topic without being able to "peek" into each other's efforts before the report is graded. Education demands efficiency, and while many college courses are successfully taught using w:Wikipedia:Education program, they tend to be advanced and with small class sizes (such as this example at the B K Shah Medical Institute.

On the other hand, this private wiki can host a collection of private wikis in a fashion suitable for large introductory college courses.

March 2018: The Noname Guild was created. It's not really a guild since only one person is involved. But perhaps someday groups of individuals who are like-minded, but will to faithfully obey the community's rules might group together by hanging such signs on their pages.

References and footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. Rebuttal essays may be placed at Talk:WikiJournal of Science/Past issues/Editorials.
  2. 1% of 10,000 is 100.
  3. Journals either taken over by another user or terminated do not count towards this "quota", which might be two journals per user.
  4. The simplest rule might be that bylaws are established that are clear and democratic. That way the WMF is under no obligation to regulate until a problem arises. If the bylaws are found to be nonexistent or flawed in some way, the journal is terminated.
  5. Sometimes I think it's an art and not a science.