wiki ideology

There are many strains of wiki ideology tending to mimic political philosophy of real life, but typically not informed by any legitimate insights from sociology or politics but rather by geek cravings and reactions to their inadequacies, i.e. neurosis as diagnosed by DSM-V or even by DSM-IV methods.

crude, stupid and thuggish

Most wiki ideology is very crude and obviously stupid, e.g. sysop vandalism, the theory that a wiki becomes more desirable to the degree that a power structure intervenes to remove content that comes from hated people on ad hominem basis.

Or, less obviously stupid but perhaps more seductive and destructive, the theory that a "community" will or must always form as a consequence of people writing collaborative texts. This is nonsense, but, may be an attractive idea to people who dislike or lack social skills for human contact, and who like to imagine they are "part of a community". The use of social metaphor however tends to authorize the single command hierarchy power structure that is thought by most anthropologists to be inherent in human groups.

nasty, brutish and short

The "Wiki Way" defined by Ward Cunningham was the most influential description of how wiki works from 2001-5. It led to some crude power theories:

The above are all incompatible and will be called wiki dogma by groups that reject them, and necessary or fundamental or wiki best practice by those that do not. The theory of open politics itself grew directly from the troll-friendly strain and rejects the others: social metaphors and spatial metaphors in particular may lead to power structures that reflect for instance the relative difficulty of undoing vandalism in the legitimate property sphere, and preventing bodily harm, none of which is at issue in even a large public wiki. Religious metaphors are also likely to be abused and may even be offensive.

The toxic mixed metaphors let almost any abuse be justified. Visible existence of any user expressing a new troll point of view in any but an explicitly troll-friendly wiki was under the other rules exactly as Hobbes expressed the likely life with no social organization: nasty, brutish and short. The sock puppet response then became so ubiquitous that things simply had to change.

early democratic views

In 2003, Wikipedia's board led by Florence Devraux developed its ArbCom - a mediation and arbitration body - in response to a Wikipedia Vicious Cycle of troll-sysop struggle that was apparently getting worse. A democratic view began to evolve to replace GodKings and their feudal "nobility" of sysop-vandals claiming to "be" a "community".

Today there are alternative views, more recognizable as expressing participatory democracy and even deliberative democracy norms, the most mature of which is:

While the extremely common and accepted conceptual metaphor of Internet as role playing game and the near-universal use of the term "trolls" to describe uncomforting denizens of the net, suggest that a Play Ethic exploiting myth or games, a simple reversal of dominant wiki ideology (anti-community, anti-sysop) and creation of counter-roles like "Lowest Troll" to formalize and thus limit the rudeness or conflict that results, is a more stable etiquette that certainly more resembles real politics itself. For instance, Florence Devraux is known to some as the Mother of Trolls.

more mature democratic views

Something more like representative democracy may be evolving with a faction system in place to let people of "more like" mind resolve disputes with each other, before those who oppose them are given status.

This is complicated by the wiki ideologies obviously which will tend to define behaviours as "good" or as "bad" based on their impact on the web service - not their impact on the movement.

A good political wiki will prefer to avoid any wiki ideology in favour of its own systemic bias: towards green politics or left-wing politics or right-wing politics or whatever. For instance, dkosopedia.com is explicitly US Democratic Party sympathetic while Green Party of Canada Living Platform is Green Party of Canada apologetic.

towards truly democratic wikis

A true representative democracy requires many more organization protocols especially with a large number of participants:

Beyond just putting open politics in force, a very diverse postmodern politics cannot be maintained unless all factions have a means of shared dispute resolution. A sustainable cognitive politics requires some deeper, maybe formal, model of cognitive bias at least as it affects consensus decision making, including formal factions. Some suggest a revert currency to achieve the analog of monetary reforms in a real world setting : to reward what is valuable and make it expensive to degrade value.


  • Hubley, Craig (2005). Living Platform in Practice
  • Möller, Erik (2003). Loud and clear: How Internet media can work. Presentation at Open Cultures conference, June 5 - 6, Vienna.Available at: http://opencultures.t0.or.at/oc/participants/moeller
  • Möller, Erik (2003). Tanz der Gehirne (http://www.humanist.de/erik/tdg/). Telepolis, May 9-30. Four parts: "Das Wiki-Prinzip", "Alle gegen Brockhaus", "Diderots Traumtagebuch", "Diesen Artikel bearbeiten".