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An online community needs a SuperordinateGoal in order to succeed. But once a community has some level of success, people who don't share that goal may try to use the community to further their own agenda.

A shining example of this would be WikiPedia. Wikipedia is rife with kooks, nutcases, and heavily-armed agenda-havers ("POV Pushers" in Wikipedia terminology) who regularly try to use the site to advance their own points of view. Pages for controversial topics -- Zionism, Taiwan, God, homosexuality, Macedonia -- go through incredible PageChurn as vying groups try to megaphone their own point of view, rather than trying to do what the site needs -- create encyclopedia articles.

Everyone has needs, wants, beliefs, desires, and opinions. Nobody wants a community in which all follow the party line mindlessly (GroupThink), and it would probably be a little spooky if community members raised the SuperordinateGoal of TheCollective above their own personal goals. But at the same time, when people don't seem to consider the SuperordinateGoal at all, then there's a problem.

When community members with excess baggage come aboard, there are a lot of risks:

In some sense, those who arrive with excess baggage cause the same problems as those who arrive with NoRespectForHistory. The common problem may be that the membership has grown to fast (CommunityMayNotScale): it is a VictimOfPopularity?. As a result, CommunitySolutions are of reduced effectiveness, and one must rely to a greater extent than usual on legal, technical, and economic solutions.

This is indeed a problem on WikiPedia, but I don't know of any solution which avoids compromising our goals. The problem with a LegalSolution is that there is effectively no way to enforce it without increasing barriers to entry -- a GatedCommunity in other words. Nothing can dissuade a person with an agenda from asserting their point of view in an article except many months of argument, an outcome which causes despair not only in those pushing the agenda, but also in those defending the NeutralPointOfView. -- TimStarling

An interesting question is, would Wikipedia be better or worse without the LegalSolution of a mandated NeutralPointOfView? The benefit of legal solutions is that they can unite communities, provided they were set via FairProcess. The downside is that by setting a yardstick that "must" be defended, they hinder attempts to LimitDamage.

You might be able to mitigate the problem for newcomers with LayeredWikiInterface, or something akin to it. -- ChrisPurcell


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