Forum OpenACS Q&A: Response to What is a WIKI

Posted by Ben Adida on
David: your comments need a quick reality check. Pure democracy works when everyone who votes is directly affected by the outcome of the vote. No taxation without representation, but no representation without taxation either.

In the OpenACS community, there are plenty of members who would be highly unaffected by these decisions, and therefore who would certainly vote on a whim and without much consideration for the long-term good of the community. For example, Jerry wants an insecure Wiki, but he doesn't want to be there if the box gets hacked and "someone" has to recover the damage. Sorry for picking on you, Jerry, but that strikes me as a rather irresponsible way of growing the community. And there are many members who would be *significantly* less affected than Jerry by many of these decisions.

The reason a small core of people has more power is that someone must have the strength (and authority) to respond and to VETO. Otherwise, the community, composed mostly of lurkers, will overwhelmingly say "yes" to everything. Do you think Linus takes a vote on all features to be included in the kernel? No, because it would lead to ridiculous feature bloat. And if we left all webmaster decisions up to the community at large, our web site would have every means of communication possible, which would lead to dozens of duplicate forums, hundreds of duplicate instructions, and overall confusion.

I'm spending about 20-30 hours per week right now talking with many members of this community, mostly in public, sometimes via private email, to figure out the *right* way to move forward. Some have proposed doing a new design, which I'm enthusiastically supporting. Someone else has submitted a new, more "business-like" logo, which I also support. I am in the process of creating a new, highly-advertised page that explains very clearly how to contribute to the site, in response to much of the criticism of the past few days. That should be ready by Tuesday. When Don comes back from his time off, I'm guessing he'll jump right in and help us figure out where to go. Guess what? We're not going to make everyone happy. Don and I had a long discussion about Wikis, and we came out with a resounding "no, this would hurt the community terribly, and we have no example to disprove this strong suspiscion." And so we made that decision. Frankly, I wish the discussion could somehow move off the darn Wiki issue and think about the higher-level problems. It's starting to get quite petty.

That said, I only have so much time and energy, and I'm starting to repeat myself without much support from other members. At the end of the day, my power (and Don's power) to guide the community (which sometimes requires overruling the "majority") can only work if most members are willing to trust us with that power.

I have set up a poll to see if the community wishes to elect a new webmaster. This poll will remain open for one week. If the vote is to elect a new webmaster, I will open up nominations on a discussion forum, and then attempt to run a somewhat fair election (probably closing off registration of new users for a while).

The poll is