Wikimedia Ethics/Overview

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Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia/Overview

Setting a good example[edit | edit source]

Part of teaching ethics is setting a good example. For this project to set an ethical example, it needs to uphold a high ethical standard itself. Examples of ethical management, both successful models and failures, are a necessary aspect of providing learning resources on the ethical management of English Wikipedia. A high ethical standard does not mean ignoring what has been said and done, or focusing only on problems with an ethical management system. A high ethical standard means that analyzing successes and failures in English Wikipedia's ethical management should focus on the model used and possible alternatives, not on praising or criticizing individuals who may or may not be involved in any ethical management systems.

Once someone has made a public statement, or has given his or her consent, then his or her name may be used in discussions and analyses of ethical management systems. However such information should not be necessary or relevant in learning how to improve ethical standards on English Wikipedia or in analyzing ethical problems on English Wikipedia. As such, no personal attacks are to be included in this project, and wherever possible, names of individuals should not be mentioned.

In some cases, it may be necessary to redact individual names from case studies drawn from the historical archives of Wikipedia.

In cases where GFDL or other free licenses are not clearly expressed, one should assume that the copyright is in the hands of the poster or of the site owner. Permission should be requested to copy such materials, other than short excerpts which may be considered "fair use", and credit should be given to the original authors.

What is the English language Wikipedia?[edit | edit source]

The English language Wikipedia is a free, open content encyclopedia project operated by the United States-based non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger it is currently the largest, fastest-growing, and most popular general reference work on the Internet.[1][2] Wikipedia is a project that attempts to summarize all human knowledge.[3]

Critics of Wikipedia target its systemic bias and inconsistencies[4] and its policy of favoring consensus over credentials in its editorial process.[5] Wikipedia's reliability and accuracy are also an issue.[6] Other criticisms are centered on its susceptibility to vandalism and the addition of spurious or unverified information.[7] Scholarly work suggests that vandalism is generally short-lived.[8][9]

Source for this section:[10]

Further reading

What is management?[edit | edit source]

Management in business and human organization activity, in simple terms means the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals. Management comprises planning, organizing, resourcing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization (a group of one or more people or entities) or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal. Resourcing encompasses the deployment and manipulation of human resources, financial resources, technological resources, and natural resources.

Source for this section:[11]

Further reading

What is corruption in management?[edit | edit source]

Corruption in management is "behaviour that may involve fraud, theft, misuse of position or authority or other acts that are unacceptable to an organisation and which may cause loss to the organisation, its clients or the general community. It may also include such elements as breaches of trust and confidentiality. The behaviour need not necessarily be criminal."[12]

Further reading

Why is corruption in management a problem?[edit | edit source]

Corruption management is an integral part of good governance and management practice. Executive management needs to be committed to the pro-active prevention of corrupt conduct in a systematic way in order to enhance the operation and reputation of the organisation.[12]

Corruption is a major drain on the effective use of resources for education and should be drastically curbed by improving transparency and accountability in education. Corruption "increases transaction costs, reduces the efficiency and quality of services, distorts the decision-making process, and undermines social values."[13]

Further reading

What is ethics?[edit | edit source]

Ethics is a major branch of philosophy, encompassing right conduct and good life. It is significantly broader than the common conception of analyzing right and wrong. A central aspect of ethics is "the good life", the life worth living or life that is simply not satisfying, which is held by many philosophers to be more important than moral conduct.[14]

Applied ethics is, in the words of Brenda Almond, co-founder of the Society for Applied Philosophy, "the philosophical examination, from a moral standpoint, of praticular issues in private and public life that are matters of moral judgement". It is thus a term used to describe attempts to use philosophical methods to identify the morally correct course of action in various fields of human life.[15]

Media ethics is the subdivision of applied ethics dealing with the specific ethical principles and standards of media, including broadcast media, film, theatre, the arts, print media and the internet. The field covers many varied and highly controversial topics, ranging from war journalism to Benetton advertising.[16]

Further reading

How can ethics be a solution to corruption in management?[edit | edit source]

Corruption has connections with the existence of monopoly and discretionary power, poor governance and supervision, and lack of transparency. "As Klitgaard, Maclean-Abaroa & Parris (2000) illustrate in their formula: Corruption (C) = M (Monopoly Power) + D (Discretion by officials) – A (Accountability)."[13]

Media ethics is all about transparency, adequate supervision, lack of monopoly control of information (no "owning" a Wikipedia article), limiting unreviewable discretion (a system of checks and balances), and providing accountability (perhaps Wikipedia's biggest ethical problem).

Corruption arises when those exercising managerial, administrative, or custodial power operate at the less advanced levels of the Integrated Kohlberg-Gilligan Model. As those in power advance to more rigorous degrees of ethical reasoning and more compassionate insight into human nature, inept and corrupt practices tend to be supplanted by incrementally better ethical practices, yielding incrementally superior outcomes.

Further reading

  • Foundations of Ethics, Google Knol Article presenting the Integrated Kohlberg-Gilligan Model and Rawl's Theory of Justice and Veil of Ignorance.

Who is in charge at Wikipedia?[edit | edit source]

The English language Wikipedia is one project run by an international community on servers owned by the Wikimedia Foundation. The content is published by the community's contributors who own the copyright to their contribution; while the Foundation maintains a mostly hands off approach to the content, runs the servers, and maintains a policy that all contributions must be GNU CopyLeft copyrighted under the GFDL, which allows anyone (including the community) the ability to fork the encyclopedia.

Power in the community is two-fold — there are specific abilities granted to specific community members and there is the reputation power granted to individuals based on that reputation. Consensus processes are supposed to serve as a check and balance against the granted powers. Transparency is supposed to ground reputations in fact and substance. Wikipedia User Access Levels details the granted powers.

The most powerful official organ at the English language Wikipedia is known as Arbcom, as detailed at Wikipedia Arbitration Committee. Jimmy Wales serves as a check and balance on Arbcom, as well as do regular elections to Arbcom.

Further reading

What are the problems with Wikipedia?[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia has attracted criticism that its open nature makes it unauthoritative and unreliable, that it exhibits systemic bias, and that its group dynamics hinder its goals. Specific criticisms include the encyclopedia's exposure to obvious or subtle vandalism, attempts by strongly opinionated editors to dominate articles, inaccurate or sometimes non-existent sourcing for controversial assertions in articles, and edit wars and other types of nonconstructive conflict among editors. Other concerns include:

  • Anti-elitism as a weakness
  • Exposure to political operatives
  • Privacy concerns
  • Threat to traditional publishers
  • Anonymous editing
  • Flame wars and harassment
  • Censorship
  • Administrator actions

Source for this section:[17]

Further reading

What are some illustrative examples?[edit | edit source]

See also: Case Studies and Neutralized Case Studies

Let's compare the ethical management of something the reader may not be familiar with, with something they are sure to have some knowledge of : slavery in the United States. While the two, in scale and importance, are as different as bumping a toe and dying in a car crash; such a comparison can illuminate the role of an illustrative example. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. That tells you a lot about the institution's acceptance and pervasiveness. But it does not tell you who or what is to blame nor what process is useful in fixing the problem. The same is true with ethical practices at Wikipedia. Although there are certain individuals who have been accused of being especially unethical, it does not follow that they are the problem, nor that dealing with them as individuals will fix the problem. So, because of that, this project will not dwell on individuals so much as on systematic and systemic issues. No example is to be understood as fixing of blame for problems of the system as a whole on any specific people.

Further reading

Cyberstalking list[edit | edit source]

The cyberstalking mailing list (on Wikia servers) reached maximum publicity with the drama over Durova's indef block of User:!! ("Bang Bang") for causes she claimed were too confidential to reveal to anyone; but turned out to be, in fact, the crime of being too good an editor, therefore he must be up to something. Everyone was so utterly appalled at this lack of common sense that Durova resigned her adminship in disgrace. User:Giano II boldly revealed (on Wikipedia) Durova's email to the cyberstalking mailing list (later copied to WikiTruth.Info (as "Durova's Sekret Evidence") and then referenced on Wikipedia Review, where the referencing link was not censored) detailing all this, whereupon the "BADSITE" clique demanded that it be deleted from Wikipedia and Giano severely punished for revealing a private email. There is a huge amount of drama around Giano as he is one of Wikipedia's most prolific and best writers of articles but he refuses to put up with the hypocrisy in Wikipedia's management.

Further reading

What are some key elements of ethical management of a website?[edit | edit source]


Further reading

What are some key elements of ethical management of an encyclopedia?[edit | edit source]


Further reading

Sources and notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Tancer, Bill (2007-05-01). "Look Who's Using Wikipedia". Time. The sheer volume of content [...] is partly responsible for the site's dominance as an online reference. When compared to the top 3,200 educational reference sites in the U.S., Wikipedia is #1, capturing 24.3% of all visits to the category (See also the author's blog post on the article)
  2. Woodson, Alex (2007-07-08). "Wikipedia remains go-to site for online news". Reuters. Online encyclopedia Wikipedia has added about 20 million unique monthly visitors in the past year, making it the top online news and information destination, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.
  3. "Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales Responds to Top Twelve Questions from Slashdotters". Slashdot. July 28, 2004.
  4. Larry Sanger (December 31, 2004). "Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism". Kuro5hin.
  5. Boyd, Danah (2005-01-04). "Academia and Wikipedia". Many-to-Many.
  6. Waldman, Simon (2004-10-26). "Who knows?". The Guardian.
  7. Ahrens, Frank (2006-07-09). "Death by Wikipedia: The Kenneth Lay Chronicles". The Washington Post.
  8. Viégas, Fernanda B.; Wattenberg, Martin; Dave, Kushal (2004). "Studying Cooperation and Conflict between Authors with History Flow Visualizations" (PDF). Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems. Vienna, Austria. pp. 575–582. ISBN 1-58113-702-8.
  9. Priedhorsky, Reid; Chen, Jilin; Lam, Shyong (Tony) K.; Panciera, Katherine; Terveen, Loren; Riedl, John (2007-11-04). "Creating, Destroying, and Restoring Value in Wikipedia" (PDF). Association for Computing Machinery GROUP '07 conference proceedings. Sanibel Island, Florida, USA.
  10. English language Wikipedia article Wikipedia
  11. English language Wikipedia article Management
  12. 12.0 12.1 University of Queensland Organisation and Governance article Fraud and Corruption Management
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ethics and corruption in education: an overview
  14. English language Wikipedia article Ethics
  15. English language Wikipedia article Applied ethics
  16. English language Wikipedia article Media ethics
  17. English language Wikipedia article Criticism of Wikipedia
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