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Due to the structure and economics of the Internet today, it is often the case that a collaborative project begins under the total control of its founder(s) and proprietor. While the founder may be well intentioned and wish to avoid becoming a GodKing, the administration of the project continues to need doing. As long as the founder is the only one with the power and capability to administer the site, the founder is the only one who can be responsible for the site. This can be quite a drag on the founder's time as they cannot DelegateResponsibility. If a crisis occurs and the founder is malfeasant or absent, the project can also suffer major damage with no one around to contain the situation.

It is also human nature to abuse power. A collaborative project may find itself unfortunately under the thumb of a less enlightened proprietor. This doesn't have to happen right away, but it may happen over time. Power corrupts, after all. Even if the proprietor acts with good intentions, he may abuse his power to act against the will of the community. Possibly, the proprietor may make an unintentional mistake when exercising his power that no one else can correct.

Worse, although obviously power imbalances create animosity when power is abused, power imbalances can even create animosity when they aren't exploited. Not only do people feel jealous of power, but they can become bitter when they don't understand why the power is guarded. Moreover, allowing individuals power over the system that cannot be publically monitored does not support OpenProcess, and that can lead to disputes even when there was no wrongdoing. (e.g. OpenProcess#badvogato)

Therefore, DevolvePower away from the proprietor to other people in the community. Typically on the Internet this means granting the PeerPrivilege of administrative power to other "trusted" individuals, known variously as system administrators, system operators, or wizards. For instance, the server password is shared, or the power to delete database records is shared. However, typically this strategy merely spreads the original GodKing powers and foibles across a wider population. This saves the proprietor's time but doesn't solve the other problem; the community at large remains at the mercy of individuals.

Instead, DevolvePower liberally to everybody. Seek ways to give equal powers to everybody. Do not give any individual power more than any other individual. For example, wikis give edit access to everybody with the understanding that everyone is responsible for the protection of the wiki. Done well (via SoftSecurity), this not only reduces strain on the administrator's time and energy, but provides meaningful checks and balances against abuse, mistakes, and misunderstandings.

There is a difference between DelegateResponsibility and DevolvePower. Delegating responsibility still allows one to retain the right of review, and the ability to revoke any authority delegated. Devolving power, on the other hand, is giving it away. Irrevocably. The recipient will know the difference, as will the community. When you delegate responsibility, a line forms at your door of people who want the decisions of your delegates reversed. When you DevolvePower, you are free.

If the outcome is not what you wanted, you can always StartAgain.


As stated, universal editing on a wiki is quite different from common web practice. Other situations:

CategorySoftSecurity CategoryJargon


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