Critical issues presentations/Building the Promises of Wikimagic

From Wikimania 2016 • Esino Lario, Italy
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Submission no. 165
Title of the submission

Building the Promises of Wikimagic

Author of the submission
  • Josh Lim
Country of origin




  • collaboration
  • user behavior
  • editing experience
  • culture

The promise of many collaborative communities, especially in the open source world, is that we are part of a larger community that strives to build itself together. Where we fall short, others will naturally come in and help fill the shortage. Community members are reasonably expected to help others who may be in need, and if they see something wrong or missing, they are supposed to be motivated to fill in the gaps. On Wikipedia, this puts into practice one of its five pillars: that it is free content that anyone can edit (emphasis deliberate), fulfilling Wikimedia’s mission of spreading knowledge and learning a little more about something every step of the way.

This is the wonder of open-source collaboration: we start something, then others jump in to help. Whether we call it “Wikimagic”, stygmergy, a collaborative ethos, etc., this is the promise that is sold to community members both new and old: the fact that this will somehow help build a better project because we can’t reasonably expect everyone to know everything from the get-go. That, perhaps, everybody can’t do things right the first time, and we need to help them out because that’s what’s expected of us as good members of our communities.

But what if this promise is very different from the reality that is presented to community members: that, in fact, this “promise” doesn’t really exist at all? That, perhaps, too often we sacrifice the collaborative ethos of the communities in favor of getting things done “right” the first time?

In this session, I hope to bring together different communities on how they deal with the idea of a “magic” collaborative ethos, how we can continue to foster an environment of constructive collaboration that reinforces value generation (i.e. we value your work), and whether the solution to reinforcing this ethos of collaboration is dependent on the creation of structures or on the redefinition of our values as a community. I’ll be sharing concrete examples from Wikipedia and elsewhere of how this ethos works in theory, how it has been applied (or not applied) in practice, what we’ve done right and what we’re doing wrong, and what we can do about it.


Not accepted