I see several topics here:
I think people were far too accepting of the first one on WikiWiki, even though it was carried out rather crudely near the end. Moreover, I think that due to the ease it was carried out, more happened because it appeared like an acceptable reaction. Just another tool. But it's not acceptable. If you're going to hold the Sword of Damocles over the community like that, you aren't adhering to the BarnRaising principle that's so vital to a semi-anarchic system like a wiki. Furthermore, if you're going to violently edit that many pages, you're basically leaving the community to pick up the pieces for you. Very rude to impose like that.
P.S. By the way, I asked the WhyClublet folk to WikiMindWipe my name off the discussion there. I didn't feel comfortable leaving polarized statements in an open forum that I didn't read. In that case, I didn't think I was imposing because I wasn't the instigator. After some arguing, they nicely just did it and we moved on with our lives.
Ah, but I think there's a significant distinction between absorbing contributions into the collective by anonymizing and restructuring and the WikiMindWipe which removes the contributions from existence without any time to prepare. I'll expand more on this on WikiEmigration. --JasonYip
First of all, as a minor point, I don't think the anonymizing of signatures is really related to the "mind wipe" events. The C2 wiki has had a strong tradition of preferring anonymous DocumentMode contributions (which has often spilled over into other wikis). Anonymizing one's contributions also makes it very clear that they can be rewritten or removed--something that people are rarely willing to do with signed contributions.
For some background on the "wipe", the author who withdrew his contributions was a participant in a very controversial discussion which frequently became rather strongly worded. (More than once I tried to moderate the tone of the discussion, with limited results.) The author's personal and professional experiences in the matter were repeatedly dismissed, sometimes in a disrespectfully confrontational way. (It didn't help that this author occasionally returned strong attacks against locally cherished ideas.)
At some point it was simply too much, and the author started to systematically remove all of their contributions. A few of the controversial pages were wiped completely, but quickly restored. On several other pages people's conversations suddenly became one-sided. Frankly, the author showed more care than I might have used.
As for the "Mind Wipe" itself, I consider the term to be a nearly hysterical overreaction to the events that occurred. From my reading, the term was coined by someone who didn't know that the eraser of the content was the original author. The Wiki:WikiCopyRights page explicitly says "Signed works are considered the property of the author(s)". Some people were rather surprised that anyone would consider such a removal as anything more than a regrettable event.
I don't think this is a matter of "rights". It is extremely regrettable that anyone would feel that they have no recourse but to initiate a WikiMindWipe. Is the term and sentiment a bit exagerrated? Yes. -- JasonYip
Perhaps there was some level of implicit trust, but I think the community was the first to break that trust by its weak responses to disrespectful contributions by others. (In my opinion, this was same kind of event that occurred with the Christian material on the C2 wiki. When pages like "WhyIsThereSoMuchChristianBullshitOnWiki" (now deleted) are not strongly opposed by community leaders, there isn't much point in continuing the discussion within that community.) Trying to keep the content after an event like that seems to say that the content is more important to the community than its authors. --CliffordAdams
Can/should anything be said about the profile/motive of a mind wiper? It seems to be an act of anger/violence or self-pity/desperation. I can just see the mind wiper's mind fuming "that's it, the hell with you guys, I don't want anything to do with you" - or sobbing "I'm hurt that you guys don't value me - I'm going to take my contributions away and maybe someday you'll beg me to come back". The former seems impatient; the latter patient. Do they have a need for attention or validation? Do they get it by being antagonistic or needy? It seems they lack the ability to give-and-take, to participate in consensus-building or agreement to disagree. There comes a snapping point.
It's hard to tell with this medium. Despite our mad English writing skills, a lot of information, especially emotional intent is lost on a Wiki. I'd suspect that any build-up is not as visible to other participants. On the other hand, I also suspect that evidence is not completely invisible. All this suggests that something similar should be observable in news groups... except that there's nothing to wipe... In any case, the big question is whether there is something the community can do to detect and address build-ups before they result in mind wipes? -- JasonYip
(**) I don't think its possible or desirable to impute intent or state of mind. If a particpant chooses to leave a Wiki, they should be free to remove their comments as they leave. Any lopsided pages will be refactored over time if anyone cares about them.
They have that right yes. Wiki:JimCoplien and others also left WardsWiki but they left their comments and I must say that I truly appreciate their decision. As Sunir says, "if you're going to violently edit that many pages, you're basically leaving the community to pick up the pieces for you". But since the person is leaving the community, why should s/he care? -- JasonYip
(**) It is not violent. It is a change. It is up to the individual. Most will just quit visiting. A few may feel like removing their comments. Trying to make much of it seems melodramatic. See Wiki:WabiSabi.
I agree with Jason's points. Yes people have the right to remove their contributions. But I'm really grateful to be able to read Cope's contributions to WardsWiki. My feeling is that if the mind wiper has strength of conviction in what he's saying, he won't use his contributions as bargaining chips - he'll leave them there for posterity. And it is not the person leaving who cares [about the community picking up the pieces] - it is the community that cares. It's the community that suffers when content is lost. Just think of the value that would be lost to WardsWiki if Cope's thinking on patterns had been removed. In the case of Wiki:TomLeylanMindWipe, he'd had some reasonably insightful things to say; he'd contributed. I can't really comment on Wiki:SamGentile and the original Wiki:WikiMindWipe - never read all that much of Sam's stuff. But I do know he presented a fairly rare pro-Microsoft view on WardsWiki which, IMHO, is valuable all by itself (not that I'm a MicroSoft advocate, mind you :-) --Wiki:RandyStafford
Suppose a bunch of people form a pop group and perform a song. Copyright of that performance resides with the group. For the lead guitar, say, to digitally erase all the guitar notes would produce a new, derivative work. In order to produce a derivative work you need permission of the original copyright owners. Thus if the lead guitar wants to undo his contribution he needs permission from the rest of the group. It is not an absolute right. This is my understanding of the legal position, and also of the moral position.
I hope the analogy is clear. It seems to me that I have no more right to delete my own contributions than I have to delete other people's. -- DaveHarris
(**) Bad analogy. On WardsWiki, he says that each contributor or their employer retain copyright. That grants the right to remove. Wiki is not a band. It is a bunch of people playing what ever songs they feel like at the time. Have you seen Wiki:RecentChanges lately? Having quotes on the same site as (elided) would be enough to make me remove mine.
Each contributor retains copyright, but that doesn't give the right to remove. It gives them the right to copy their own stuff (eg to another site), and to forbid others to make copies. Not the same.
Also, they only retain copyright of their own work. A page that has been edited by several people is the product of all those people; it is at least the sum of its parts. When you produce a new version of the page with some parts missing you create a derivative work. This notion of composite works, by multiple authors, with copyright distributed over several people, is fairly important.
Wiki is not a bunch of people playing in isolation. It is more like a jazz jam session. We're interacting. I'm weaving my themes in and out of yours. See also BarnRaising. Good music can (and probably should) include conflict and tension.
There is a degree of devil's advocacy about my question. I suspect it would not be helpfull to tell a mind-wiper that they don't have the right, especially if they are acting out of feelings of hurt or rejection. A community may well want to grant the right, or at least forgive transgressions.
Also, we do have a fairly general permission to delete anything, and most of the time we'd rather people deleted their own stuff than other people's. Partly because there is less chance of offense, and partly because people are expected to know how best to express their own minds. However, all of this is backed by a presumption of good will. A Mind Wipe is different because it is selfish; the wiper is not acting for the good of the community. -- DaveHarris
(**) The analogy breaks down, as in a band or a jam session, the individuals get together for the purpose of making music. A band is made up of people generally in agreement about what they want to produce. A wiki could be the same, but without a purpose, is just so many people blasting their own instruments. You have one guy playing acid rock, another playing the clarinet, etc. Likewise, analogies to a drama production, and barnraising fail for the exact same reason. In each of those, there is a common purpose. If an individual working on the barn starts putting up beams in a way that would not help the barn, his neighbors should correct him. That does not happen on Wiki. There is almost no contribution that is seen to be not acceptible on Wiki, and this should show you that Wiki is not a band, drama production, or barnraising.
In a functional wiki with a common purpose, and members that keep the contributions generally on target, I would be much more inclined to agree with your arguments. But I think there are routinely other things done to Wiki that do it far greater harm than the occasional wipe.
I don't think your objection is relevant to the main point. Copyright belongs to the group even if the group members have their own agenda. Also I think you underrate the common sense of values in the Wiki communities. On any given page the contributors to the page do tend to have a common interest. I don't think the pages on, eg, movies, actually cause much of a problem to the pages on programming, at least from this point of view. Disagreements are opportunities to learn. If Wiki people were truly trying to drown each other's sound, they would delete more. -- DaveHarris
Let's not forget that ability does not imply desiribility. Personally, I think I should have the right to control my statements to some degree (I can't control quoting in fair use), because I believe in giving credit where credit is due as well as the converse of not falsely attributing credit (say by misquoting or ContentSwizzling). However, I also believe I have a social responsibility to TheCollective to not abuse their good will. After all, it is not right (at least morally, though sometimes legally) to voluntarily take a lot of responsibility for, say, a play and then abandon the production on opening night in a fit of pique. As an adult, I'm expected to behave responsibly and in consideration of others, which includes respecting other people's invested efforts. -- SunirShah
(**) Sorry, I just don't buy it. Wiki is not a band, and it is not a play (production). It is a bunch of people talking about what ineterests them. Or whatever. Just look at all that is being posted. It is by no mean choreographed. I really think that Wiki:WabiSabi is the best analogy. Be good enough to let it go.
If you want band or play, you might want to delete the dissenting opinion. I have marked it with (**)'s for ease of removal. Or, if you want more free form than band or play, just remove this comment and the (**)'s.
A WebLog is sufficiently disjoint to allow for individuality. A wiki is necessarily collaborative. The building metaphor here is BarnRaising, whereas on a WebLog it is... a SoapBox? AthenianAmphitheatre?? Notice that the comments you disagree with come from threaded discussions. Even on this wiki there have been a lot of threaded discussions, but that is bad. Wikis break down in heavily threaded discussion because they aren't efficiently designed for those circumstances.
As for removing dissenting opinion, that is also bad. If you think something, others will probably too. So, if we eventually come to near consensus that the opinions are wrong, then we should at least keep them around to prevent dealing with it again. If they are right, then they should remain and be addressed so we can all get smarter.
The point here isn't that wikis are a band or a play, though. The point is that they are social groups. Etiquette, manners, politeness and social skills are the point. It's just simply rude and irresponsible to drop the ball on your team. But if you don't consider the wiki as a team (collaborative) effort, then this metaphor will fail. However, in that case, I urge you to reconsider. I don't think one can constructively edit others comments without trying to help them improve their writing, or the value of the site as a whole. Remember, we want to raise the barn. Always building towards better value. (Another reason why a mind wipe is deadly; it's like tearing down beams because people didn't appreciate the crooked hammering--beams that hold the roof up.) -- SunirShah
(**) I can almost appreciate that. The problem is that Wiki is no barn. A barn is a useful structure. Wiki is an experiment. Until there is a Wiki with a purpose, there are no beams holding up a roof. Someone like (elided), chopping beams in half, and setting fires in the hay loft, makes removing a few beams meaningless. A few years back, this was not the case. When Cope left, Wiki was a pattern repository. Now it is just people blowing smoke. If people would make an attempt to keep it on subject, it would be a different story, and might even qualify as a barn worth protecting.
Right. I agree with the assessment that WikiWiki is currently purposeless. On the other hand, a wiki like MeatballWiki is purposeful, even if that purpose is quasi. In general, the goal here is to construct useful information to build (online) community. So, here, the BarnRaising metaphor holds. Curiously, on WikiWiki, people (including myself) have maintained that the topic be as wide as possible. Thus, when discussion of topicness comes to bear, many people chime in with the almost romantic idea of topiclessness. I recognize this attitude as a mistake now. Without focus (focus is context), there can be little meaning. Or even no meaning. There is no art in randomness. In order to convey meaning, there must be structure. Structure implies (ontological) exclusion. --ss