Wikimedia Ethics/Brainstorming

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Ethics data gathering[edit]

We are creating a learning resource at WikiVersity.

Please look at Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia. You may wish to add your name to the list of human resources. You may wish to contribute to one or more of the items on the to do list. May I request input on proposed ethical guidelines for management of the English language Wikipedia? Or suggestions on a practical objective method of evaluating the same?

Distinct ethical standards/guides for distinct roles[edit]

This seems to me to ignore the central fact that each project already has its own governance. Any guidelines finding consensus here will carry no weight at other projects. If you want to discuss each project's governance that discussion should be taking place at that project, not Wikiversity. Centaur of attention 20:58, 11 July 2008 (UTC)

This project is about providing open educational resources for those who are becoming engaged in governance issues on various projects sponsored by the Wikimedia Foundation. No one is obliged to become educated in subjects they have no interest in. But for those who have expressed a sincere desire to learn more about best ethical practices, this project seeks to serve their needs.

Here in the US, we just celebrated Independence Day. We recall these words, penned by Thomas Jefferson some 232 years ago:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." —Thomas Jefferson, US Declaration of Independence, 1776

I also hold another truth to be scientifically discoverable: That all people are endowed by their Creator with another unalienable right — the right to engage in discovery learning by means of the Scientific Method on the one hand, or the reciprocal right to remain blissfully ignorant on the other hand.

Which hand (or cerebral hemisphere) do you favor, Centaur of attention? You have unfettered free choice in every instance, to choose what you wish to learn, when you wish to learn it, and what you wish to disregard for the time being.

Moulton 22:45, 11 July 2008 (UTC)

Links to Existing Wikimedia Project Ethical Guidelines Related to Above[edit]

Other ideas[edit]

Ethics Library[edit]

  • Perhaps a project subpage called "Ethics Library" with both general content and links?

Certificates of Accomplishment[edit]

I'm just now beginning to see in my head the mechanisms by which this can provide a positive impact. A major current problem is with teenagers simply trying to "level up" as if this were a game. By deliberately aiming to make passing a course or test or whatever here a badge of honor, a leveling up in itself, the current wikipedia culture can be used to self-correct. We will need to be able to provide a prestgious title and a series of internal leveling up within this project; not for its creators and teachers but for its students. At some point we will need to come up with cool labels/titles, badges and barnstars. See Durova's activities for this sort of social engineering. Hmmm. Maybe she would be willing to help set up such a thing. She's like you - sometimes hard to deal with, but all heart and means well. WAS 4.250 22:11, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

The first thing that comes to mind is helping a student of ethics figure out where he or she is currently operating on the Kohlberg-Gilligan Ladder of Moral and Ethical Reasoning. Moving up a rung is actually a major milestone in life, so we might want to work out some more fine-grained exercises, along the lines of Filll's AGF Challenge exercises, or along the lines that we traditionally employed with the youngsters on MicroMuse back in the golden age of online communities. —Moulton 00:49, 11 July 2008 (UTC)
It seems extremely clear to me that the cause of the majority of the ethical issues on English WP is due to misunderstanding of the core principles and how they should be applied. If they were applied (sources for every bit of information in a BLP, understanding of what NPOV is, understanding of the implications of NOR etc), I believe that most of these issues would disappear. So educating users as to what they are and what they imply seems to be an important part of the solution. The Fieryangel 08:55, 11 July 2008 (UTC)
Among the ideas on the table to solve the BLP problem (as defined by Doc Glasgow and others) is to limit BLP authorship to those who have demonstrated competence in crafting biographical material that rises to a reasonable level of accuracy, excellence, and ethics in online media. The way things stand now, on the English Wikipedia, is that more often than not, "BLP" stands for "Blasphemies of Living People." —Moulton 10:27, 11 July 2008 (UTC)
Limiting editing on BLPs to editors who have "demonstrated competence" violates the core concept and spirit of Wikipedia - an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. And it creates a system open to gaming and abuse, determining exactly who is competent enough to edit BLPs. It's never going to be adopted by the Wikipedia community. Which brings up a bigger issue: Exactly what do you think you are going to accomplish here? Any guidelines finding consensus here will carry no weight at Wikipedia. If you want to discuss Wikipedia's governance that discussion should be taking place at Wikipedia, not Wikiversity. Centaur of attention 20:53, 11 July 2008 (UTC)
Centaur, the problem as we are seeing it is that Wikipedia is already "a system open to gaming and abuse" and not focused on generation of content. Kelly Martin makes some statements about this issue over at Wikipedia Review in the context of a BLP situation where the photo of a living person was used to illustrate the article of "Twink" (a young, attractive homosexual) without the person specifically giving permission to do so. Her take on this issue is that most "editors" do not have any idea of what the rules are and haven't even considered what the core policies might mean. If one follows them, then this type of situation does not exist. However, people don't.
What needs to happen here is that a set of recommendations needs to be made to make BLP more ethical, as to not harm individuals. Part of this might mean restricting editing such articles to those editors who have demonstrated that they have the understanding and the maturity to do so. Recently, I participated in a study which examined the English WP articles of the 100 US senators in a three month period. The results were simply shocking and clearly, this cannot continue. If this means that only experienced editors can edit BLP articles, isn't it better than the legal headaches that are currently the results of the system in place? The Fieryangel 21:50, 12 July 2008 (UTC)
One of the functions of studies of ethics is to empower people to rise above the minimum prevailing legal standards. On the one hand, most people don't want to live with anxiety of operating just a tad above the breezy side of the law. On the other hand, leadership in culture values requires being a role model for the highest achievable norms, in the hopes that others will rise to ever higher levels of good citizenship as well. —Moulton 07:07, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

My objective here is to provide educational resources on the subject of best ethical practices, for the benefit of those Wikipedians who may find such educational material helpful to them. Not everyone will find what they are looking for here, but hopefully we will successfully serve the needs of those whose educational agenda includes managerial ethics and media ethics, as they apply to various projects sponsored by the Wikimedia Foundation. —Moulton 22:51, 11 July 2008 (UTC)

Analysis of core processes on WP from an ethical and dynamic point of view[edit]

What is the vision, purpose, and ethical principles underlying the recurring core processes on the English Wikipedia? How were they intended to support and sustain the project at their inception and how have they evolved over time? To what extent are they efficacious or iatrogenic? How does this evolution and shifting definition or application make these principles more or less effective?

One interesting starting point may be Jon Awbrey's "Historical datapoints of the NOR policy", which is located here.

This type of examination might be useful in seeing whether the problem is the core policies themselves or their current interpretations by the WP hierarchy or the "community", however that term might be defined. It might underline key points in WP core policy which are not being followed and which should be underlined in any sort of educational resource concerning using WP ethically.

The Fieryangel 08:33, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

Another issue is the extent to which core features of the system are gamed or exploited for corrupt purposes at odds with the overarching objectives of the project. —Moulton 03:17, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

Analysis of ethics on Wikinews[edit]

What can an open content journalism site such as Wikinews do to ensure that articles maintain a high ethical standard. How can contributers to sites such as Wikinews be encouraged to maintain a high ethical standard. How can one ensure that all original reporting follows the appropriate ethical guidelines? Although I know this is not directly related to the English Language Wikipedia, I believe it has a place on this resource. Anonymous101 14:46, 16 July 2008 (UTC)

Wikinews has resisted the view that the site has any obligation to adopt or live up to a professional code of ethics. It occurs to me that a journalistic enterprise that fails to embrace a code of ethics doesn't have much of a future. —Moulton 05:38, 21 August 2008 (UTC)

Some other ideas[edit]

Generally speaking, there is a history of ethics in medicine and other related disciplines. In psychology, APA and other governing bodies put out codes of ethics. Often, these ethics start with guiding principles such as beneficence, non-maleficence, justice, fairness, and so forth...

Must we reinvent the wheel? Emesee 07:18, 20 August 2008 (UTC)

We must reintroduce the wheel to those who are not yet familiar with it. Moulton 10:18, 20 August 2008 (UTC)
Wikipedia is an entirely new and fundamentally different way of creating a thing that has the appearance of an encyclopedia. Some claim it is not an encyclopedia due to its lack of named professional editorship. I think it is demonstrably useful and more useful every year. The question of how to manage such a new thing is important. This project seeks to investigate the question of applying the concept of ethics as used in other media enterprises to the wikipedia project. It is not even established to what degree that application of ethics is optimum for the pursuit of WikiMedia's objectives and values. This learning resource can only gather and organize material useful in trying to understand the issues. It can not, in the end, deliver a final verdict. WAS 4.250 14:21, 20 August 2008 (UTC)
http://web.archive.org/web/20011112015907/www.wikipedia.com/wiki.cgi?HomePage See where we were. WAS 4.250 15:01, 20 August 2008 (UTC)

Actually, I think Emesee has a good point. While WP is very different, it is by no means completely new, either. I think the Blogger's Code of Ethics and the Journalist's Code of Ethics it was based on both have relevance to WP, even if they don't apply completely:

  • Seeking out and reporting the facts
  • Minimize harm
  • Be accountable

Each of those certainly would apply to WP, even if we might have to interpret them differently for the context. Sχeptomaniacχαιρετε 19:54, 20 August 2008 (UTC)

I agree with accountability. But consider that accountability means identifying the editor. And that means no disposable avatars. —Moulton 00:13, 30 August 2008 (UTC)
I would partly disagree. Few things are truly all-or-nothing. It's definitely true that WP's commitment to allowing anonymous and pseudonymous editing severely limits the ability to enforce accountability. I believe the question is, what would an ethical editor do to remain accountable within those constraints? Sχeptomaniacχαιρετε 17:43, 30 August 2008 (UTC)