PageMaintainerAnalysis

This page answers more theoretical questions about PageMaintainer policy, such as: “Why have a PageMaintainer policy?” “Why does it work?” “Where else could it work, in wiki?” “What challenges remain?”

Questions

"Why?!"

Two reasons are:

Basically, the predominant rule of WikiLandia is: BeBold! Anybody can edit anything!

…generally going hand in hand with an AntiAuthoritarian streak, should someone challenge someone else’s right to say anything, anywhere.

Consider this from the two angles mentioned: Process, and Reworking.

”…we need to give people space to lead in ways that work best for them, if we are asking them to be a leader.” (SamRose)

Should someone say, “I want to try process X on this page, please, let us use process X on this page,” it is not unheard of that this is greeted with a skeptical: “Who are you to say what we should do on a given page?”, in follow-up. This leads to a social dilemma ending in frustration, and plausibly CommunityDoesNotAgree, leading to inability to pursue a process. This has actually happened, and we are near certain that concern for this happening has prevents people from experimenting in process and making investments in reworking. Asking questions is fine, and social dilemma are not necessarily harmful. But if it is ritual, and regularly skeptical, it can border on oppressive.

“I think the point is that in addition to the current process, we’ll try something new: Self-designated page maintainers that sort-of promise to rework the page when the time has come, in an effort to encourage at least one person to rework some time in the future.” (AlexSchroeder)

From the angle of reworking, we like the idea of people assuming responsibility for reworking the DocumentMode?. There is good reason to believe that the LackOfReworking stems from failure to assume personal responsibility for reworking, with the belief that “the community will take care of the reworking.” But taking personal responsibility for reworking can be made harder, and even socially risky, if you have to answer the question: “What parts will you take care of, and what parts will I take care of?” (Even anticipation of such a challenge can be prohibitive. See: SocialReworkingDilemma.) So it can make sense in some cases, to allow people to self-select PageMaintainer status, and take care of the reworking.

Assume, that if a page does not have a PageMaintainer, not that the community will rework it, but rather, that the page will most likely never be reworked.

So, in conclusion: We use “PageMaintainer” to show community support (community does agree!) for experimentation in process, and responsibility in reworking. The community delegates authority (see PageMaintainerAuthority) to a person who is taking on an experiment or reworking.

See also: PageMaintainerSkepticism

Does It Work?

Several systems SimilarToPageMaintainer seem to work just fine.

I have a feeling that it will possibly help create parts of a system that create quality pages in this wiki. (SamRose)

It’s too soon to tell whether PageMaintainer will work in the mid to long term – the only terms that matter, really, for evaluating a new system.

Practically any process can live on hopes and dreams and wishes, in the short term.

If it’s 2008 and we’re still doing this, there might be something to it.

That said, some of us are optimistic.

How Does it Work?

There is no question in my mind that the social dilemma that Lion describes exists. Nor is there a question in my mind that (ed: PageMaintainer) is an efficient way to handle the dilemma, and the problem of LackOfReworking. (SamRose)

Basically, it works by answering the question: “By who’s authority do you think that you can (take command of reworking, or give direction on this page.)” It assures people that, yes, you can try out a different process, and, yes, if you are dedicated to reworking this section of pages, we won’t bother you, or introduce questions that can put you in socially awkward positions.

This is basically it. For details on the delegation of authoriy, see: PageMaintainerAuthority.

Where Else Could It Work?

The question, more specifically, is, “In what other WikiCommunity? or other OnlineCommunity? groups could this work?” The idea is: “If this works here, why not elsewhere?”

We have not performed a full inquiry into this question yet, but here are some things that came up in the original DesignatedMaintainerProcess discussion.

There are actually a number of situations in which this is utterly unnecessary.

Consider AlexSchroeder’s EmacsWiki?, for example:

“Many pages seem to work rather well, even though we don’t have designated page mantainers. Many of these pages are not controversial: How to do this, or how to do that, using Emacs…” … “Thus, it seems to me that the subject matter influences the size of the problem. Uncontroversial, slow moving topics suffer less.” (AlexSchroeder)
“Taken to the extreme, can you imagine a wiki committed to discussing the meaning of life? I have no doubt that LackOfReworking would be a problem there.” (KeithHopper)

It is plausible that this only solves problems that exist where only where people are committed to talking about somewhat controversial (question generating) subjects, wherein a process could help, or are talking a lot and very quickly, wherein reworking is called for.

Further, if you are doing some sort of focused inquiry (AboutInquiry,) process and reworking are practically necessary.

Assuming that something like this does help, then you likely require some stable sense of order. That is, a ScratchWiki may be much too chaotic, without a clear community that can come to agreement on things. If CommunityDoesNotAgree, PageMaintainer will be contested, and near impossible to uphold.

We actually have a fairly developed authority system (see: CommunityWikiBylaws,) but it’s conceivable that this system could work on wiki that have nothing but a clique, or a shared community spirit, provided it can reach agreement to practice PageMaintainer.

“Here’s some conclusions that I’ve reached after studying people’s use of social software in more open settings, as well as more “closed”, or moderated settings, for a while:”

(SamRose)

See Also

PageMaintainerSeries

Discussion

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